I don't generally gravitate towards western set historical romances. Cowboys do not make my little heart go pit-a-pat. But every now and again, I dip back into the sub-genre to see if things have changed for me at all. Unfortunately, the answer, as of this reading, is still no.
Tanzy escaped from her Kentucky mountain home after her whole family died feuding with neighbors. Once she was left defenseless, her uncle planned to marry her off to her horrible cousin. Instead she fled to St. Louis where the only work she could find was in a gambling hall, not the place for a respectable girl. And so on the advice of another girl, she becomes a mail order bride, traveling out to Colorado Territory to marry Russ Tibbolt. Her first sight of him is when he defends the stagecoach against bandits and she feels a frisson of something for him even then. So it is a shock to her to hear that he is persona non-grata in the small western town.
In his youth, he was convicted of murdering the town leader's younger brother and although the conviction was a set-up, he did his time and has come back to Boulder Gap to resume his life. Too bad the townsfolk, led by Stocker Pullet, won't let him, continuing to believe Stocker's assertion that Russ is a liar and a murderer. No matter what Tanzy thinks about the man she somehow knows is decent, she refuses to be caught up in another feud so she isn't willing to marry him. Staying in town and starting to work as the local teacher, she comes to see the best in Russ and in a young boy, Tardy, whose aunt continually degrades and demeans him. When Tanzy's background is called into question and she loses the teaching job, she ends up out on Russ's ranch where she falls farther and farther in love with him and determines to clear his name somehow.
While the plot is intriguing, there's a lot of wishy-washy bits where we hear Tanzy and Russ disagree about the nature of the "feud" and whether or not it should be an impediment to their marriage. Add to that Russ's ingrained distrust of women and lack of respect for their opinions and you have a recipe for disaster. Even worse, Tanzy seems to finally understand that it's not a feud but almost immediately does an about face and becomes stupid over the subject again and Russ realizes that Tanzy is an honorable adn trustworthy woman but then turns right around and completely discounts her opinion again. Argh! Both she and Russ are fairly sympathetic characters but there wasn't much of a spark to speak of between the two of them. They'd have done better to partner in opening a home for wayward boys. OK, not really, but this felt entirely too long and drawn out, especially since it was not only clear who was framing Russ for cattle rustling but also how right from the beginning (and this was not carelessness on the author's part as he tells the reader). And so there was no suspense to speak of, lackluster sexual tension, and ubiquitous misunderstandings between characters here. I might have been more forgiving if this had occurred in a romance set in a time and place for which I have more fondness, but perhaps not. As I understand it, fans of western romances really love Greenwood though I did not.