Why I Read It: Because I got it free from the Friends of the Library. And because it’s Linda Howard.
From the back cover: Victoria Waverly was a noble daughter of the war-ruined South, sold in marriage in a ruthless Western rancher. Only honor and pride could help her endure her painful role as wife in name alone. Yet honor could not quench Victoria’s forbidden desire for the hired gunman Jake Roper. His narrow gaze was hard as ice, but the tender emotions he could not hide promised to unveil to Victoria the glorious mysterious of love. Jake cursed his burning need to the graceful lady, for he wanted nothing to stand in the way of his drive to reclaim his ranch — Sarratt’s Kingdom — the empire that was his legacy and obsession. But ancient wrongs and blazing passions would bind together the proud, aristocratic beauty and the lean, powerful cowboy. In a bloody Western land war they would fight for Jake’s rich birthright, and seize at last the love that was their hope, their dream, their destiny!
My Thoughts: This book grabbed me from the very beginning. It started so dark, with the rampage of McClain against the Sarratt family. I instantly got drawn into the story. I’ll just say it. McClain is a bastard.
Victoria was the bride of McClain, bought and paid for because her family was made poor during the war. She traveled to Sarratt’s Kingdom with her cousin Emma, and sister Cecelia. Jake and Victoria had chemistry from their first meeting and I enjoyed watching their game of cat-and-mouse. I enjoyed the buildup that Ms. Howard put into these two characters and their story.
This story also had great side characters. I cared about Emma and Cecilia as much as I did the main characters. I enjoyed their relationship with each other and with Victoria. They really were a family and made for a great part of this story. I also enjoyed the relationship between Emma and Ben. Their first meeting was a bit steamy and I knew something was going to happen there. There was also the sweet friendship between Luis and Celia. They made me smile.
On page 220, Jake pissed me off and I almost didn’t finish reading it. But I loved the characters enough that I wanted to finish their story, so I continued on. Then about page 228, I went “Oh wow” in spite of myself.
Since I’m a reader and not a reviewer, I have a habit of including spoilers when I write about what I’ve read so I’ve marked the next two paragraphs as spoilers. Read them at your own discretion.
***SPOILER*** I’ve seen A Lady of the West categorized as an abusive book ~ I don’t know that I agree with that. Jake did hit Victoria once ~ not purposefully, but he did do it when he thought Victoria was lying to him about being pregnant. He believed the baby was McClain’s, even though McClain could never consummate the marriage with Victoria. So he was taken over by rage, thinking Victoria was trying to pass off his enemy’s baby as his own. I’m not sure “understand” is the right word, but I guess I understand how it would happen. It doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t make me altogether hate Jake for it either. Then, there’s the fact that Victoria slapped him too. ***END SPOILER***
***SPOILER*** What ended up happening to Cecelia was heartbreaking. I guess I knew was going to happen when she dropped the apple into Rubio’s stall (and the fact that I read about it over at Book Binge), but it didn’t make me cry any less. When Luis carried Cecelia’s lifeless body back to the house, I lost it. I cried for everyone involved. Cecelia was just discovering what it was to be a woman when her life ended so tragically. She was simple and sweet and really was loved by all the other characters who lived at Sarratt’s Kingdom. ***END SPOILER***
This book was Excellent and is staying on my keeper shelf. I laughed, I cried, I got angry ~ It just made me feel so many things and I know the characters will stay with me for a long, long time. I cared about them all ~ or at least the ones I was supposed to. I definitely recommend this one.