Touch Of Texas
by Tracy Garrett, historical (2007)
Zebra, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0100-3


It's been a while since I last read a Western historical romance so I don't know whether to be dismayed or reassured that nothing has changed since I last read such a romance novel.

The hero Jake McCain is a Texas Ranger who shows up unconscious and badly injured at the doorstep of Rachel Catherine Hudson who of course takes him in and nurses him back to health. He learns that Rachel is an outsider in the town of Lucinda, living in a house and trying to make ends meet with only her teenage brother Nathan by her side. And with Nathan being so young he has more enthusiasm than capability when it comes to helping out with daily chores. It only takes a rumor about her being a former woman of ill-repute to turn Rachel into the town pariah, but that's nothing compared to the fact that the bad guy Jake is after may very well turn out to be the same person that killed Rachel's mother (well, this is a small world) and what do you know, that bad guy is coming to get them.

Along the way, Jake does his predictable Wherever I Lay Hat (That's My Home) shtick when he is of course not good enough for her. And naturally, he pulls this stunt after he's slept with her. If this is real life, I'd say that the loser is just trying to wiggle out of his responsibilities, but because Jake is a romance hero, I'm supposed to go, "Aw, that's so sad. He's so tormented." Fortunately for my blood pressure, the author is also aware that it is bad taste for the hero to act as if the heroine's problems are nothing compared to his self-pity party, so Jake tries to do the right thing with Rachel. Only, he decides that "doing the right thing" is... well, I won't reveal what that is, let's just say that this guy loves being a martyr way too much for my liking in this story.

On the bright side, while Rachel does have her oh-so-annoying "I'm in trouble but I won't accept help because that will be accepting charity!" nonsense that is often passed off in romance novels as "independence" or some similar "virtue", she is also a smart lady who doesn't do anything stupid to annoy me the way I'm annoyed by Jake's bizarre need to make a martyr out of himself. What I like about Rachel is that while she's not a physically tough or kick-butt heroine, she demonstrates that she is nonetheless tough enough, mentally, to take the crap the world flings her way while trying to find a way to get over her troubles. She doesn't make herself into a martyr - that's Jake's standard operating procedure, not hers.

However, the characters in this story rarely behave in any way that deviates from the script. The story in Touch Of Texas is one that has been rehashed many times before in any Western historical romance that has an injured outlaw-chasing lawman needing some bedside TLC from a heroine who is besieged by circumstances. The hero does his thing, the secondary characters in their recognizable roles do their thing, the heroine does her thing... everything happens like clockwork here, the way I expect them to, with very little that deviates from the script.

Despite the overwhelming sense of having read this story many times before, I still find this story pretty enjoyable because it is a well-paced story. Ms Garrett writes in an engaging style that pulls me into her story. Therefore, I feel that it's quite a pity that Touch Of Texas is a rather uninspired rehash of a familiar storyline because I believe that the author can do so much better than this. This is a very readable story, which is why I'm giving it a pretty high rating despite my reservations. Think of this one is a well-written comfort read.

Rating: 81


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