Rose, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #1)

>> Monday, June 02, 2003

I don't read Westerns, but I was intrigued by certain comments about Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides Series. Since it turns out a friend has the entire series, I borrowed the first entry, Rose, out of curiosity.

George Randolph, the oldest brother and patriarch of the family, needs someone to wash, cook, and clean for the brothers on their Texas ranch. Rose Thornton accepts that job. She arrives at the homestead to find six men ranging in ages from six to twenty-four years old. The house looks like it hasn't been cleaned in years, the clothes practically stand up and beg to be washed, and everything in the kitchen is black with soot and grease. She soon discovers she's in the midst of a truly dysfunctional family. The brothers don't seem to like anybody, and that includes each other. They don't much like Rose, either. Once they learn her father was an officer in the Union Army, they vote to send her back to town.

George Randolph was an officer in the Confederate army. He feels responsible for his family, but wants to rejoin the army, the only time when his life was ordered and predictable. Rose sets out to convince George that he's not only a father figure to his brothers, he really wants a family of his own. With her. At the same time seeks ways to repair the fragile bonds that hold this family together.

I liked it, it was a B. I did find some problems, but it wasn't that I was dissatisfied with what made it a Western, just that certain things in the story didn't completely work for me. I'll very definitely read the rest of the series, since I really liked the characters (call me snobbish, but on the whole, I don't like to read about uneducated characters), the feel of the book and the type of story (i.e. not a lot of emphasis on gunfights) and the author's voice.

I was surprised to see how fast I was sucked into the story. It was very definitely not fast-paced and a big part of the book is Rose doing housework, plus, her getting settled at the ranch, the development of the brothers' relationship between themselves and with Rose, George's plans for the ranch. Pretty mundane stuff, boring, almost, and yet, I wasn't bored for a second.

Nice writing style or just me being weird and enjoying reading about housework? Reading about it, I said! I detest it in real life, but, for some strange reason, I love reading about heroines completely transforming a place from pigstyle to palace. And Rose is so incredibly capable! She knows how to do everything, and doesn't make those idiotic blunders some authors have their heroines make in order to make them "adorable". The author doesn't seem to feel that an educated heroine has to be incapable of hard work, and I love it.

I loved all that, most especially the family dynamics, and how Rose managed to help them actually become a family. Nothing easy about it, they had to work for it, and even by the end of the book, there were still problems, though they were well on their way to actually becoming the family George wanted to have.

Problems? Sure. The love story wasn't really too compelling. I was more interested in the family relationships than in George & Rose... in fact, when they get married and are coming back to the ranch, I was more anxious to read about how the brothers reacted to the news than about their wedding night. That says it all, I think.

Also, I just didn't "get" George's issues. Why on Earth is he so convinced he's going to be like his father? "Oh, I can't marry Rose because something in my nature will make me make her unhappy! I will feel compelled to stray, no matter how much I want her now!" Idiot. That sounds like an excuse for doing whatever he wants to do, without feeling guilty (because he just can't help it!, and I found it exasperating.

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