Laurel, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #4)

>> Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Laurel, #4 in Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides series.

Hen Randolph's reputation as a cold-hearted gunslinger without a need for friends, family or women, was the reason he was hired to be the sheriff of Sycamore Flats, a small Arizona town. They needed someone ruthless enough to protect them from the Blackthornes who have harassed the town and run off the previous sheriffs.. When he saves a young widow. Laural Blackthorne, from a beating, he finds he's made a enemy of the entire clan. When he refuses to let the Blackthornes take Laurel's son, they plan to kill him and warn the townspeople to stay out of the way.

Laurel Blackthorne has no need for gunslingers or guns. As far as she's concerned, Hen is no different from her late husband or his family. She wants little more than to prove she was legally married to Carlin Blackthorne and that her son is legitimate. She doesn't want the new sheriff to interfere. But when he does and carefully tends her wounds, she sees the tender man this gunslinger could be. But Hen is a loner who thinks he's empty inside unable to love and certainly not worthy of anyone else's love. She loves him but can't let herself hope for a future with him. As a sheriff, he would always be in danger, and she can't stand the idea of losing him.
This one was a B-

As you can see from my comments about the first books in this series, it has got worse and worse as it progresses. I thought Laurel continued this trend pretty much until I was halfway through. It took me almost a week to get that far.

The point when it started to improve was when Hen - Laurel got off the ground as a couple. Previous to that I liked Hen, but Laurel was a twit, as was her son, and I hated the whole town and wanted a horrible natural disaster to strike and kill all those judgemental idiots.

Hen was very sweet and gentle, one of those silent types. He was pretty tortured, but unlike his brothers, whose main concern seemed to be that they would end up being their father (and they take this much too far), Hen does have a valid reason to be tortured. He considers himself a killer, and thinks this has made him empty inside. He's unlovable, and all that.

Something else I liked was that he was a virgin, the equivalent of all those dead-beneath-the-waist female virgins in romance novels who seem devoid of hormones until they meet the hero. He actually has never even wanted to have sex with anyone until Laurel. I find I like this, probably just because it's original.

As for Laurel... oh, Laurel. She was ok, except for certain episodes of blinding stupidity, most of them in the first half of the book. The whole irrational anger at Hen for being a sheriff and using guns (I hate it when authors make anti-gun charactes stupid and near-sighted; so heavy-handed!), and how she refused to get out of harm's way by coming into town, simply because she was too proud. And I wanted to scream at her near the end for being willing to give up Hen only because Adam decided he wouldn't accept him (and she knows Adam's mind has been poisoned by his grandfather, and that he just adores Hen, and will show it again as soon as he comes to his senses). That didn't especially convince me that she did love him much.

I also wanted to scream (at the author this time) at the contrived misunderstanding, when Laurel never asks Hen about his plans for the future, just asumes he wants to be a sheriff forever.

I hated Adam and the town a little less by the end of the book. A little. Maybe the natural disaster shouldn't kill them all, just destroy a few houses. ;-)

The setting was less important here than in the previous books, probably because I've read about this same desert town in other books and seen it in countless movies. The other books were more original. The suspense subplot, unfortunately, wasn't too good either, though it felt less perfunctory and was better integrated to the rest of the story.

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