Book Review: Calliope Creek by DeAnn Smallwood
It's been years since I read a 'Western' romance, and I remember them as being outrageously misogynistic at best. I picked this one up for review wondering if that had changed in the new millennium... and I was pleasantly surprised.
Trent, the hero of the book, is a man of few words, we're told... though he does spend quite a lot of the first three chapters talking to his horse about how much he loves his Colorado ranch, the titular Calliope Creek. Nor does he seem too lost for words when he finally meets Riley, our heroine... in chapter 7. By then we've gotten to know both characters, have a pretty good idea of their backgrounds, and it really does seem quite obvious that they're going to be a perfect match. In fact, I expected the set-up conflict between the two to be worse than it actually was.
Riley has inherited a piece of land that Trent was all set to buy, and she has no intention of giving it up. Not only does Trent NOT throw a hissy fit about it, he backs her all the way, even convincing her old-school ranch manager to work for a woman and like it.
I'm pretty sure I'd fall for him too. Especially since he can cook.
The author is a resident of Colorado and her love for the area she is writing about comes through in every word. The description is spellbindingly evocative without being flowery, and there's even an interesting impromptu history lesson about the Ute First Nation peoples and their exodus from Colorado.
This is a 'clean' romance without any sex or even the implication of it, but it's not at all old-fashioned for all of that. There's a Sassy Gay Best Friend and his partner at whom nobody batted an eyelid, which I must admit surprised me in a Western. Very progressive... and honestly seemed a LITTLE unlikely in cowboy country that they wouldn't face any discrimination.
The only reason I can't quite bring myself to give this book the full five stars is that there was no real internal conflict in the relationship. Plenty of (in fact possibly too much) external conflict threatened their future happiness, but neither Trent nor Riley needed to show any character growth in the course of the book for their romance to work. They were already saccharinely perfect for each other at the start, and as such I found their story enjoyable but quickly forgettable.
I'll give it four and a half stars, rounded up to five for Amazon and Goodreads, for a well-written tale, but I admit I won't be leaping all over myself to hunt down the author's other books.
Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book for review through ReadingAlley.