Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John

When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….
But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

I finally read Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John, a Harlequin Historical I've had on my "to be read" pile since it released last December. I loved her book, Joe's Wife and have begun collecting some of the books in her backlist already. She also has a new book this month, To Be a Mother and I'll definitely be adding that one to my pile as well.

Her Colorado Man is the story of a young woman in 1800's Colorado who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Her grandfather sends her away to Chicago to have the baby and tells the rest of the family and the community that she met and married a man there, Wes Burrows. This man then left Mariah and their newborn child for Alaska to seek his fortune looking for gold.

Unfortunately, the name grandpa uses is the name of a "real" person. Through the years, grandpa's old friend Otto writes letters to the young boy pretending he is the father who is away in Alaska. When Otto dies, the "real" Wes Burrows receives the letters and through their correspondence falls in love with the boy. Wes then decides to come "home" to meet his son and to be a "real" father to a boy who he feels needs him. Of course, he doesn't take into account that a wife comes with the son too.

In Wes, St. John creates a tough, but sensitive male character who needs as much as he is needed. I was touched by his sensibilities, his need for love and family and willingness to give. Wes is a "good" man. Mariah on the other hand, is a woman who is ahead of her time, but also very much of her time. She has an outward toughness that hides her inner vulnerabilities. Mariah is independent within her family circle, but is very much restrained by her gender and circumstances. She is trapped by both and her independence is almost an illusion until Wes comes along. 

This was a touching story. St. John begins this romance by having Wes fall in love with the boy first, then with the extensive Spangler family, and at last with Mariah herself. Mariah is understably weary of Wes and really doesn't understand what he wants -- this stranger who comes out of nowhere and whom she has to accept or break her son and family's hearts by revealing her lie. She is quite ruthless with Wes for a long time, even when he is a gentleman and a sweatheart. I think her reactions are quite understandable under the circumstances.

The book is warm on the sensual scale and excellent when it comes to characterization. St. John really takes her time when it comes to developing the protagonists and their romance. She gives you the reasons behind both Mariah and Wes' motivations as we get to know their past histories -- some of which are complex, especially when it comes to Mariah's past experiences. The author also takes the time to develop the large cast of characters that make this story what it is, the Spangler family in particular. Through them, she also explores the setting and historical times by cleverly using the family's ties to the brewery industry to do so.

A well written and developed Harlequin Historical, with excellent characterization, Her Colorado Man was an enjoyable read for me. I loved the clever way in which the setting and history were incorporated into the story, as well as the sense of family and the unique way in which it influenced this romance.

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None
Release Date: December, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

12 comments:

  1. Probably the most imporbable plot St. John has ever written, but she sells it really well, doesn't she? I really enjoyed the the brewery business "stuff", and the family dynamic was great here. Interesting without being intrusive.

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  2. LOL, I kept wondering how she was going to do it. She pulled it off. I loved the brewery details and the family dynamics were wonderful. Different.

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  3. Well said, Hilcia. Wes' craving for a family and a place to belong really made the book seem natural and not contrived. All the other stuff was very interesting, too, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

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  4. Thanks for the review Hils and the reminder that I still haven't read this one. Ugh! More reading time please. :)

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  5. The plot sounds unbelievable to me. I'd like to find out for myself how the author will make me believe. Lol. I have two St. John's books in my TBR for awhile now and yet I want to read this one. Go figure!

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  6. Thanks so much for the review!

    I put this story idea back on the shelf for at least a year and a half until I figured out how I could make it believable. I just coudln't let go of the part that excoted me: Wes "falling in love" with John James, as you so aptly put it, and crossing the country to find him.

    I really enjoyed writing the story.

    SMOOCHES!

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  7. Phyl, yes! Wes also made the story work for me... his need touched me. I'm glad you enjoyed this book too. :)

    Victoria, this is a well-crafted book & although the story itself takes a serious turn, it WAS fun to see how the author made the storyline work. :)

    Leslie, lol, I thought you'd read it! So many books, so little time. I know what you mean... time flies! Enjoy!

    Tabitha, I hope you enjoy this book and the ones you have on your TBR. I have to get to the ones I have on mine.

    Hi Cheryl. Thanks for not giving up on the story. I was touched by both Wes' love & his need for John James' love, your excitement came through. I enjoyed reading the story. :D

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  8. Her books are wonderful aren't they? I've loved every one I've read - and that would be all of them so far except for her newest - that one is yet to read.

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  9. Kristie, they are... at least the two I've read. :) I'm looking forward to her contribution to "To Be A Mother" -- Mountain Rose. I hope it doesn't take me so long to get to it this time. I also have The Preacher's Wife and Her Montana Man on my TBR, slowly but surely, I'll get there with Cheryl's work. :D

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  10. It sounds very good and different :D

    And this is not too old, chances are, I'll be able to find it easily :D Thanks for the review, Hils!

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  11. Nath, the book is both. It was her last release from December of last year, it's available, unlike some of the older releases. Enjoy it. :D

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