Heart of the Frontier: A Western Romance Collection
In “The Gamble” by Brittany Larsen, Thomas Clayborne, younger son of an English baron, travels West as part of a business venture investing in cattle. He’s asked to escort Ella Merriweather on the train, who’s going to work for Clayborne’s business partner, Howe. But Ella has information on Howe’s nefarious business practices. Should she warn Thomas? In “Her Frontier Bandit” by Jen Geigle Johnson, Rebecca Bailey is going West with her father, where he will take up a post as a doctor in a frontier town. When their train is stopped by masked bandits, one of them looks strangely familiar, despite the mask. In “Sagebrush Sally” by Jennie Hansen, Sally Cranston and her father are farmers forced off their land in England, going to live on her uncle’s ranch, where Sally gets mixed up in a cattle-rustling scheme. And in “Celebration for Celia” by Carolyn Twede Frank, Celia lives in Idaho Territory and is nearly betrothed to Wesley, a snobby medical student studying back East. But when she helps rescue Bruce, a wandering gold miner injured by a rockfall, she feels a spark of attraction.
The subtitle is “A Western Romance Collection,” and I would add the descriptors “clean/sweet.” The publisher has religious connections, so there are no bedroom scenes, but they are not religious-themed. As usual with shorter fiction, there isn’t much time for deep character development, compared to a full-length novel. Perhaps that’s why the longest of the stories, Johnson’s, was my favorite. Hansen’s tale’s ending is a bit of a disappointment compared to the build-up in the previous few pages. I was amused that Frank’s story acknowledges the existence of privies and chamber pots, topics usually skipped in historical romance. Overall, these four novellas are a quick, pleasant read for fans of sweet Western romance.