I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Wyoming Men #6
Published by Harlequin on December 27, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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The Wyoming men are back! In their quest for true love on the range, are these ranchers bold enough to open their hearts to the women under their protection?
Ren Colter may own an enormous ranch in Wyoming, but he scorns his wealth. He’s closed himself off since his fiancée left him years ago, so he’s shocked when he allows Meredith Grayling to stay with him. He tells himself it’s only to protect the blonde beauty from a stalker, but Ren’s alpha instincts soon kick in.
The last thing Merrie wants is a devastatingly handsome man like Ren lurking around her. He’s too experienced, too appealing for her already shot nerves. What she needs is just to get away from it all: the man haunting her waking dreams and the one hunting her like an animal. But no woman escapes this Colter cowboy!
I’ve been reading Diana Palmer books for a couple of decades now, and there are a few hallmarks of her stories that I’ve just come to associate with a DP read.
One is that they promote an “old-fashioned” attitude toward premarital sex for women—and are likely to comment on said old-fashioned notions harbored by the main characters—although it should be mentioned that her books do feature premarital sex, but not before it’s clear hearts are engaged, at least on the female side of the equation. Another is that the heroes tend to be abrasive and also tend to judge the heroines based on loose women they have known and/or who have hurt them, painting them with the same brush despite all elements to the contrary. They tend to learn the error of their ways and regret their treatment of their lady loves, but often too late, and the regret never seems to be for their general misogynistic attitude, just that attitude as applied to the heroine.
These are things that have bothered me in a number of DP reads, especially since, in the past several years, I’ve been taking more body- and sex-positive stances not just in life, but in what I say about the books I read. Unfortunately, I felt as though Palmer’s latest book, Wyoming Brave, had all the elements I’ve come to dislike and then some, and too little of the things I’ve enjoyed about her work in the past—or, rather, if they are there, they aren’t sufficiently distracting that they cancel out the bad taste I had in my mouth while reading this.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you would like to read this book, please note that this continues the story of the two Grayling sisters we met in the Long, Tall Texans novel Defender, which I also unfortunately didn’t like too much. The events in the previous novel set the stage for this one, so I’d recommend reading that book first, as you’ll find there’s quite a bit of info dumping in Wyoming Brave just to cover what happened and who’s who in Defender.
What I did enjoy while reading this book was learning a little about ranching and about life in small-town USA, both of which are so alien to me, an occasional beach bum born and bred on a tropical island, that it’s almost like reading romantic fantasy instead of contemporary romance.
But, as you may have gleaned from my little rant at the top of this post, there was a lot I didn’t enjoy. Most of it centers around the hero, Ren, who is an extreme version of Palmer’s typical woman-hater.View Spoiler »There’s actually a line I found myself highlighting for sheer feminist horror, in which Merrie, the heroine, is talking about how smart her sister is because she graduated in the top of her college and law school classes: “He cocked his head and studied her. She was pretty and sweet. Smart? He didn’t care if a woman was smart or not. He liked Merrie.” OMG, was my reaction.
Then there’s the scene where he plies her with alcohol—brandy, even after she remarks that she’s never had so much as a beer—and says it’ll relax her, making it easier to do “this.” “This” being to kiss her and engage in a heavy makeout session. Merrie, who’s never been kissed until Ren does it the first time, is swept up by the raging passion, but freaks out when he asks if he needs to use birth control. She puts a stop to their alcohol-fueled lovemaking. Rather than respect her right to say no, he becomes verbally abusive, even asking if she wants money to sleep with him. « Hide Spoiler
To say I was disgusted by his behavior was an understatement. I couldn’t believe any love interest could come back from that and everything else he’d already said, thought, and done, and still be someone the heroine wants a happily ever after with. Sure, he felt sorry afterward. Especially after someone spilled details about Merrie’s traumatic history and the reason for her innocence. But too little, too late.
Plus, here’s the thing: Merrie’s innocence is plain to see. Everyone sees it and senses it, and people even remark on it. Beyond that, she shares quite a bit about herself and her abusive, controlling father who was paranoid about his daughters spending any time with a member of the opposite sex. She also talks about her religion and old-fashioned attitudes. So ignorance regarding her inexperience could not have been anything but willful denial on his part, and as such was inexcusable.
Anyway, moving on. Beyond my (decidedly negative) feelings about Ren, I also found it difficult to respect Merrie. Her sweetness and understanding nature were practically Mary Sue in caricature, but apart from that, she was just so completely willing to downplay herself, I couldn’t help but being annoyed by her martyrdom upon the altar of Ren’s misogyny. She even compromises her ambitions for Ren before he has the chance to ask her to so. I guess I just found myself stumped by her overpowered facility for forgiveness and her seeming inability to make a stand for herself (and for women everywhere).
I don’t want to go on and on about this read, but I have to say that it’s kind of the straw that’s broken the camel’s back as far as my fandom of this author is concerned. Maybe it’s that I’ve matured and my ideas about love and sex and feminism have changed. Plus, managing a book blog has helped me refine my ideas about what romance should and shouldn’t be. And unfortunately, Wyoming Brave misses the mark.
Will I read any more books by this author? Having invested so many years in reading her, I’d like to say I will, but I really can’t say. I’m hoping she can come back with strong heroes and heroines I can admire. But I honestly don’t know at this point.
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Wyoming Men series reading order