by Linda Howard

October 1997
ISBN: 0-671-01973-2
Reviewer Graphic Button Pocket Books
Mass Market Paperback

Victoria Waverly moved to the west to marry Frank McClain, aka “Major”, and hopefully provide a better future for herself and her family. After the war, her aristocratic family found themselves in dire straits and barely able to put food on the table. The Major, a man who would never have been considered a worthy marriage prospect before, was now the only chance her family has to live in the relative comfort they have been used to. Despite basically being “bought” as a wife, Victoria has accepted her fate and resolves to make a future with the Major as long as her younger sister, Celia, and her cousin, Emma will be allowed to live with her as Victoria’s companions. The Major has always wanted an aristocratic wife – it doesn’t really matter whom. He just wants to show to all his neighbors how far he has come and since he always felt as though the Waverlys looked their noses down at him, it didn’t hurt that as buying Victoria as a wife, he can rub his success in their faces also.

When Victoria arrives at the ranch, she barely has time to think before she is rushed into a quick wedding ceremony. The western culture is unlike anything she has been accustomed to and she is shocked at the nonchalant attitude towards carrying weapons and the amount of “hired guns” employed at the ranch. One of the first people she is introduced to is one of the hired gunmen, Jake Roper, a rough looking man who seems to take an instant dislike towards Victoria. But despite Jake’s seeming animosity towards Victoria, she soon discovers that he is the only one she can turn to when finds herself in a nightmarish marriage and when her sister Celia is threatened by some of the ranchers.

Although Victoria tries her best to fight it, she feels an undeniable attraction to Jake. Jake’s feelings are mutual and the two of them are caught in an inescapable web of desire. However, Jake has ulterior motives for being at the ranch and for wanting to rescue Victoria from the Major. Jake knows that Victoria’s feelings may very well change once she discovers his true identity and his real intentions for working at the ranch.

A Lady of the West is packed full of action and adventure! There was constant tension throughout the entire novel and Linda Howard does an excellent job of portraying the trials and dangers of life in the west. In addition to the abundance of action in A Lady of the West, there is also plenty of romance to spice things up as Jake and Victoria’s romance isn’t the only one in the story – there are also 2 other blossoming relationships to keep the reader entertained.

One complaint I had regarding A Lady of the West would be that Jake’s character wasn’t developed as fully as some of the other characters. He was the “mysterious cowboy” right through the novel to the end – and that isn’t a good thing when the reader wants to understand the reasons why the heroine is in love with him. The reader can easily understand Jake’s motivation for wanting to gain control of the ranch and his loner attitude because of his tormented childhood, but we don’t know much about him beyond that. His character seemed to be more one-dimensional than Victoria’s. However, despite the fact that the reader may feel as though they understand Victoria, her personality seems to undergo a drastic change about half way through the novel. For instance, it seems odd that Victoria would accept both of her marriages to men she really did not want to marry with hardly a squeak of resistance and then have a show of spirit and stubbornness towards the end that could risk her life and that of the cousin and sister she worked so hard to protect. This “new” Victoria seems to be in direct contrast with the meekness and submission she showed earlier, which I found a bit confusing.

Nonetheless, Linda Howard fans will find many reasons to love A Lady of the West. The scorching love scenes and attention to detail she is so well known for, are not lacking, nor is the fast-paced, exciting plot.

Reviewed in May 2002 by Nicole.

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