Friday, March 25, 2011

Promise Me by Deborah Schneider

TITLE: Promise Me
AUTHOR: Deborah Schneider
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 79k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $6.50

Amanda Wainwright promised her husband on his deathbed that she would use his fortune to help out the miners who helped create it for him. The only problem with that is, some of the residents of Willow Creek aren’t too happy about her presence, mainly the other mine owners. They convince Sam Calhoun, the lumberyard owner, to seduce her and then ruin her reputation in hopes of driving her out of town. Sam agrees, but only because he’s working undercover for the Secret Service and he desperately needs to gain the men’s trust in order to find out what he needs to know. Then Amanda actually shows up in town, and all his good intentions go flying out the window…

This book came recommended to me by a romance-reading friend who really enjoyed it, but only showed me we have very different ideas about a strong heroine.

On the surface, the story should be a great fit. It’s a Western historical, which is my preferred type of historical, and tells the story of a strong widow doing good, with a strong man conflicted between his developing feelings for her and the job he must do. Amanda arrives in town, your atypical widow as she was basically given in marriage to a much older man as part of a business arrangement. She’s never known love and considers herself unlovable in a lot of ways since her dead husband didn’t seem all that interested in her sexually. Sam has agreed to seduce her since he’s trying to get in good with the local men in hopes of discovering whether or not they are part of a mining plot, but once he meets her, he’s torn between his attraction to her and what his job demands. They strike a lot of sparks, and in fact, for the first half of the book, I was actually excited about the chemistry between the two.

Then they hit their first big relationship problem. And Amanda went from being this strong, independent woman, to a vengeful child throwing the worst tantrum ever. She even characterizes her actions like that. And my respect for her flew out the window.

It’s an issue of trust at that point, to be honest. Sam had been lying to her from the start, she found out about some of it, and everything hit the fan. But what my friend saw as strong and independent, I saw as bitchy and unnecessary, because she ultimately refused to act like a grown-up about any of it – so contrary to all of her actions previously – and instead pouted and sulked and did the silent treatment for days afterward. When they start to regain ground, it began a cycle of I want you/I can’t trust you/I want you/I can’t trust you, with the back and forth, and leaving and going, and I just wanted to scream by the time I got to the end of it.

There wasn’t even the promise of Sam’s assignment to really provide more meat to the story. Except for what he needed at the beginning, and then providing fodder for the climax, it’s never really explored much, leaving the bulk of the story to fall on their love story. Since I couldn’t buy into that after Amanda’s change in personality, I was left with more frustration than any sense of satisfaction. My friend thinks I’m crazy. She thought Amanda’s reaction was perfectly justified. But there’s a difference between justified and out of character. This was a woman who set up her miners’ organization in a brothel. I’m expected to believe she doesn’t have the strength or nerve to face the man she was so mad at for days upon days after their fight? That she feels the need to punish him with her silence? I don’t think so.


8/10 – Moderately paced, clean prose


7/10 – Charming, but I didn’t wholly believe in all his angst or back and forth


6/10 – I liked her a lot more until her huge temper tantrum in the middle of the book where she acted like a spoiled brat out of the blue

Entertainment value

6/10 – This lost a lot of momentum when Amanda hit her tantrum and thus started the back and forth of yes/no/yes/no that drove me crazy

World building

7/10 – Some nice details, but this felt like it could’ve taken anyplace in the west, not necessarily specifically in Montana



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