If you are looking to read great historical Western romance, you’re in for a treat with Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose Trilogy. Because I’d loved it and despaired of seeing more from Warner, I was delighted to see she was back with contemporary Western romance. I’m not keen on cowboys and I hate horsey stories, but, hey, Warner! And I happily plunged into Rough Creek. The blurb made me nervous there would be too many horsey details and I was right, but the protagonists are always what’s best in Warner. The blurb was encouraging:
This was not my initial impression: Dalton’s emergence from prison, return to his Texan home town (the eponymous Rough Creek) only to find the family ranch sold and no place for him at the inn, compelling. I felt like I was back in Warner country and loving it. When Dalton and Raney meet: her snappy suspicions and his laconic responses showed, once more, what a master of banter Warner is. In the end, the banter was the only thing that stopped me from DNF-ing. Dalton’s sense of dislocation and desire to belong gave way to an adoring, quipping confidence; but Raney’s insistence on mistrust as the basis of their relationship grated. Dalton was, to start, such an interesting character, with his disavowal of guns after being in Afghanistan, a refreshing stance on the romance hero’s part. Moreover, there is a mystery surrounding his arrest and incarceration I was curious to see resolved (which was well done when it finally came).
All of the interesting stuff was left by the wayside and the romance became a study from slow-burn to slow-bore. I think one of the keys to a great romance novel is pacing and Warner faltered here: weeks and months go by and Dalton and Raney don’t interact, without rhyme, or reason. Dalton goes from sad and tormented to charming and irresistible; Raney dithers for hundreds of pages, which is fine, if there were reasons for it. Warner sets up some kind of mistrust issues on Raney’s part, because of a dishonest ex, but Dalton is so lovely, it never convinces. Moreover, there isn’t sufficient conflict, neither inner, nor outer, to make for a can’t-put-it-down romance. When Raney and Dalton do interact, they’re fun; they’re also compatible. And it’s obvious, without much by way of conflict, or drama, they’re perfect for each other. I wished there was more to the romance than that. I’m glad Warner’s back and I might give the next romance a try, but the monochromatic Rough Creek doesn’t do what Warner can and has done, justice. With Miss Austen, we agree Rough Creek offers “tolerable comfort,” Mansfield Park.
Kaki Warner’s Rough Creek is published by Jove. It was released in July 2020 and may be found at your preferred vendors. I received an e-galley from Jove, via Netgalley.