Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Wrangler in Petticoats (Sophie's Daughters #2) - Mary Connealy

Beth McClellan's little sister, Sally, has grown up a lot since the debut title in the Sophie's Daughters series and is about to have a romantic adventure of her own. After her party is attacked on their journey to visit Mandy, another McClellan sister, Sally finds herself the sole survivor of the brutal ambush. Sally is fortunate enough to be rescued by Logan McKenzie, an artist who lives in the wild mountains of Montana. She's nursed back to health by Logan and his Indian housekeeper, Wise Sister, and finds herself challenged by the idea of a man who makes his living through art, not hard labour. Wary of unconventional men after Mandy's marriage to gold-miner Sidney brought her nothing but trouble, Sally tries to ignore the feelings she has for kind, considerate Logan. But once they find themselves on the run from the men who killed the rest of Sally's travelling party, Sally can't help but see admirable traits in the man who sets out to protect her. Could she really spend the rest of her life with a sensitive man who prefers painting to hunting? Maybe he's the perfect match for a woman who carries a gun and refuses to ride side-saddle...

Mary Connealy is fast becoming one of my favourite historical novelists. Her romances are full of feisty heroines, excellent one-liners and lots of action. While I didn't warm up to Sally as much as I did Beth, this was still a very enjoyable read.

Sally is probably the most unconventional woman you'll find in a romance set in Montana in 1882: she wears trousers, doesn’t ride side-saddle and is a better shot that most of the men in her hometown in Texas. If you thought a female doctor was an unusual character in Doctor in Petticoats, I'm sure you'd admit that a female wrangler is not the norm either. I found Sally to be a bit more stubborn than Beth, but maybe this is because her story wasn’t quite as comic as Beth’s. With Doctor in Petticoats, I found myself drawn into the story by Beth’s sarcasm and wittiness, whereas Sally was quite arrogant and immature in her demands for Logan and Wise Sister to leave her alone and let her make her way to Mandy’s. Of course, this can probably be attributed to her youth, as she is a lot younger than Beth. She became a more endearing character as the plot progressed, and I came to realise that her dismissal of Logan stemmed from her fear of ending up in an unhappy marriage like Mandy. Despite her lack of conventionality, Sally worries and frets over the biggest decision any romantic heroine will make – who shall I marry?

I’ve always been more fond of Beta heroes than Alpha males, and Logan fit the bill quite well. While I wasn’t pleased by how easily nature and his art could detract his attention from Sally (although I’m sometimes tempted to unplug my fiancĂ©’s computer when he’s not paying attention to me!) he was incredibly sensitive to Sally’s needs and didn’t mind her crying when she was in pain or worried about her sister. As Sally herself witnessed, it’s not often that a man can handle a woman becoming incredibly emotional, so that fact alone made me admire Logan. I also found the details about his art incredibly fascinating, particularly as the author suggested that he was dabbling in expressionism, an art movement that I've studied at university. I’ll admit that those who are less knowledgeable when it comes to the art world might not be interested in Logan’s work, but I’m sure most readers will be able to appreciate the descriptions of the scenery that he paints.

Other than Sally’s stubbornness, my only other complaint would have to be that the romance is slow to develop. I was more than halfway through the book before I really felt that Sally and Logan became interested in each other, and while I appreciated the time that the author gave the characters to develop independently, I felt that the romance suddenly escalated at this point and felt a bit rushed. Of course, I was very happy with the outcome, but the development of their relationship did feel like it was compressed into the latter half of the novel, which wasn’t ideal. For this reason, I’d have to say that I preferred the first novel in the series, although this wouldn’t in any way put me off reading the last book, which focuses on Mandy’s story.

During the second instalment in the Sophie’s Daughters series Sally McClellan comes to learn a lot about herself and her thoughts on love and marriage with the help of the sensitive artist who becomes her rescuer. Fans of Mary Connealy and wild west romances won’t be disappointed by this novel, and it’s sure to make your heart pound and put a smile on your face. 8/10

Many thanks to NetGalley and Barbour for providing a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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