Fern, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #2)

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Continuing with Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides Series, I read book # 2, Fern.

Fern Sproull, a young, swaggering opinionated ruffian, dressing and behaving like a cowboy, is determined Hen Randolph will hang for killing her cousin. She's equally determined that a fancy lawyer named Madison Randolph isn't going to get his brother off. Fern has spent the last eight years of her life outriding, out shooting, and out cussing every man in her path, and she's not about to let the man who murdered her cousin get off just because he's one of the Texas Randolphs. But how is she going to know what tricks Madison gets up to unless she follows him around?

Madison Randolph, the brother who abandoned his younger orphaned siblings to go to Harvard during the Civil War, has come to Abilene, Kansas to defend his brother against a murder charge. There's not much love lost between Madison and his family, but he's certain Hen isn't a murderer and he doesn't mean to let him hang. The fact that an obnoxious female who dresses like a man and acts even worse intends to stop him only encourages him to prove he's the very best at what he does. The suave, sophisticated Madison is appalled, first to discover that under all that dirt and bluster is a woman, and secondly, that he's intrigued by her. But Madison soon discovers the female isn't so obnoxious after all and that the ties of blood can never be broken.

This one was not even remotely as good as Rose. I'd give it a C at best, and I'm actually grading up because I like the author's writing style, which immediately sucks me into the story and keeps me reading even when I'm wanting to tear my hair out because of some plot point. I'm also giving the book extra points because I find the setting very interesting. It's not the stereotypical "Western" setting, full of saloons and gunfighters, and the author manages to create a vivid world in which his characters live. I also liked the main plotline: I was intrigued by Fern's cousin murder, and I liked that the mystery subplot didn't overshadow the romance.

The problem was the characters, most especially the heroine, and their motivations. Fern was "feisty", and not in a good way. She was the foot-stomping, hair-tossing, cross-dressing kind of feisty; stubborn, quick to make completely unjustified judgements, and a doormat for users like her father. In a word, I thought she was stupid. I hated her, can you tell?

Though Madison was much better (at least he was usually a reasonable guy), half the time, I hadn't the slightest idea of why these people were behaving in a certain way. That was my main problem; they did things with no rhyme or reason. In Rose, even if I didn't like some of the characters' issues and motivations, at least I more or less knew where they were coming from and it made sense!

The book completely disintegrated near the end, with Fern starting with the "I'm not worthy, boo-hoo!" routine, a painfully clichéd misunderstanding immediately after, and Fern showing, yet again, that she was TSTL in the final action scene.

I certainly hope the series doesn't continue in this vein!

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