Friday, February 19, 2010

Kendra's Choice by Lauri Robinson

TITLE: Kendra’s Choice
AUTHOR: Lauri Robinson
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 30k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $3.50

As the oldest daughter of the area’s pastor, Kendra Parker has spent a great deal of her time taking care of others, and not nearly as much time seeing to herself. Helping a local elderly woman edit her articles is just another example of this…except for the fact that the article is all about a woman pleasing her man. Suddenly, Kendra is filled with desires she has no idea what to do with, and the prospect of finding someone she can test some of these theories with consumes her. Perhaps, however, the day of her sister’s wedding isn’t the best time to do that. But that’s the day Major Sterling Marlow rode up to visit, and he’s the one she can’t seem to get out of her head…

The idea of a historical heroine in search of sexual enlightenment in a western setting that wasn’t about a cowboy or prostitution intrigued me. Too many clichés get trotted out when it comes to historical westerns, so I trusted this author to pull it off because of the first book I’d read by her. The only problem was, that wasn’t really the story I got. It starts out that way, but the author too quickly abandons the original premise to follow the romance tried and true, resulting in a story I just can’t believe in.

Kendra is intelligent, sassy without being obnoxious, and still at heart a good girl who takes care of others in need. She’s a little miffed that her younger sister by two years is getting married before her, though not necessarily jealous of the fact that little sis got pregnant which forced the wedding to happen prematurely. It seems more than a little unfair to her, so with the recent fuel for her imagination from the article she is editing, she starts seriously considering how she can experience that kind of pleasure for herself.

In rides Major Sterling Marlow. Literally. He arrives at the Parker home unannounced, and gets invited to stay for the wedding. First sight of Kendra, and he’s in lust. Though this isn’t his first visit to the homestead, the author explains away their ignorance of each other by using Kendra’s many stays with ailing parishioners as the reason they haven’t panted over each other before. The chemistry is sharp from the get-go, and I settled in for what I hoped to be a sexy, light-spirited romp.

That’s not what the story actually is. Before the wedding celebrations are over the following morning, both Kendra and Sterling have decided they’re in love with the other, on the basis of some dinner conversation we aren’t privy to (it gets summarized that it happens in a sentence), a dance, and some stolen kisses and petting. Sound fast? It was. As a result, I didn’t believe it for a second. I know I’m supposed to suspend disbelief a lot of the time when I’m reading romances, and if I know that’s the kind of story I’m letting myself in to, that’s fine. But this was misleading from the start, like it wasn’t okay for them to simply be in lust for a little bit before actually falling in love. From that point on, the story devolves into a forced separation, some angsting on both of their parts that they’ll never see each other again, minor drama in which Kendra at least equips herself in the smart manner I’d witnessed at the start, and then…that was it.

I’m just not of the school that immediate sexual attraction equals love. The vast majority of the time, this device doesn’t work for me. Maybe that makes me cynical. I like to think it makes me a realist who knows you can have great sex without wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone. It takes more to build a relationship, and if the author isn’t going to bother showing it to me, I’m not sure why I should bother trying to believe it.


7/10 – Simple mistakes kept drawing me out of it


6/10 – I wanted to like him more than I did, but his swift leap to love never made sense to me


7/10 – I liked her marginally better than Sterling, because of her strong and independent nature that didn’t stand in the way of her doing the right thing by her family, but again, the leap to love held this back

Entertainment value

6/10 – A lively sense of setting and character, but my failure to believe in the swiftness of emotion disconnected me from the romance

World building

8/10 – The juxtaposition of Kendra’s free-spirited nature with her historical western environment heightened both aspects



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