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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Sunrise Over Texas

Sunrise Over TexasTitle: Sunrise Over Texas
Author: MJ Fredrick
Page Count: short novel (ebook)
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: historical romance
Copy for review obtained via NetGalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Kit Barclay is reeling from the death of her husband and child and trying desperately to keep her mother in law, sister in law, and herself alive in the coming winter with food rapidly running out.  When a stranger appears, delirious with fever and in desperate need of help, Kit can't help but step up.  In fact, that kind of defines Kit's whole life until now.

Sunrise Over Texas is one of those books that proves that a little bit of something goes a long way.  While an enjoyable enough story, the melodrama at times was a little overwhelming and the sheer intensity of the odds that the characters faced eventually seemed to take over the story, leaving the ending to be less believable than I would have liked.

Kit (is it just me or does every Western romance have a character, male or female, named Kit?) has a hard row to hoe by any standards.  Her husband was killed while out on patrol, her infant son died of fever, and in her grief she refused to go with the garrison leaving the Texas fort where they lived so now she, her mother-in-law, Agnes, and her young sister-in-law Mary are stuck at this fort, living off the meager stores and trying not to think about how dire their straits really are.  Kit is the worker in the group and lets Agnes and Mary get away with doing pretty much nothing; in her mind they made their sacrifice when they refused to leave the fort without her.  Kit doesn't seem to consider how them not helping is affecting their chances of survival, which I admit I found odd.

Enter one Mr. Trace Watson, who's falling off his horse and delirious with fever when we first meet him.  Kit takes him in and nurses him back to health, and the attraction between them is immediate and intense.  When they find out they both had similar tragedies in their recent past (the death of a spouse and the death of a child) it served to bring them closer together, and each took comfort in the other willingly and consensually, despite the disapproval of Agnes, who made her opinions clear.

This part of the story was engrossing and I was interested to know how they planned on surviving the winter at the fort.  Ultimately, though, they make the decision to head to a nearby colony and therefore, back to civilization, or at least a supply depot.  What happens after that is what, in my opinion, made the story go downhill.

Some of the conflicts that Kit and Trace had to deal with were logical.  Obviously, in this time period, they can't be sneaking in and out of each other's rooms like guilty teenagers once they've returned to an inhabited area, as propriety would not have allowed it.  They could, however, have discussed their feelings like adults, have made plans like adults, and have worked out what they wanted from their relationship. 

*Spoilers lie ahead, ye be warned, skip to the next set of asterisks if you'd rather not know.*

The plot takes a sharp turn towards Unlikely when Kit finds out that her husband is not only not dead, but apparently is living on the land claim they had intended to move to together.  When she gets there, he's so brain damaged from a bullet wound to the head that he doesn't recognize her, his mother or his sister and requires constant attention just to get through the day.  Obviously this puts a complete stop to Kit's relationship with Trace, as Kit just got moved back to married status from widowed, and it was the only choice for her.  Trace understands and heads back to New Orleans, where he was a lawyer before his life completely went to hell in a handbasket.

Then, Kit's husband dies, and Kit finds out she's pregnant. Oh snap.  Do you see what I'm talking about when I say the melodrama gets a little tiresome after awhile?

*Spoilers are over, you can open your eyes now.*

The story seemed like one big denial of reality or escape from responsibility from most of the characters involved.  Agnes and Mary barely lift a finger to aide in their own survival, which I found obnoxious and boring.  The only thing Agnes was good for was reminding Kit about how improper she was being in seeking physical comfort from Trace, and Kit had enough guilt about that as it was.

Even Trace got to be kind of irksome after awhile.  While I have no frame of reference for his devastating loss, riding off into the Texas wilderness with all the survival skills of a New Orleans lawyer seemed more suicidal than starting over.  When Kit shows up in New Orleans, finally able to pursue a life with Trace, his response is lackluster and borders on hypocritical, like somehow Kit got pregnant all on her own.  After a devastating meeting with Trace's mother, Kit leaves, figuring that the Trace she knew might as well have died in Texas with the rest of her dreams.

While these two do fumble their way to a happily ever after, it felt like too little, too late for me.  I'm glad each of them is able to have the family they always wanted, but I didn't feel like they really knew anything about each other, having dealt with pretty much exclusively drama at this point.  Without a strong secondary cast to carry some of the story and everyone's faults held up for such easy scrutiny, at the end of the book I felt more exhausted than fulfilled.  I haven't read a Western romance in a long time, and this wasn't the worst book I've ever read by a long shot, so it could just be that this is far enough outside of my regular purview to not ring my bell.

Overall Grade: C
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