Susanna's Choice
by Sara Luck, historical (2012)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-5042-6


Susanna's Choice is basically the story of Rab Trudeau, who owns a mining company called the Silver Falcon Mine, and how he's not happy when the newspaper Virginia City Pioneer publishes a report that his mine is in trouble and causes the value of the stocks to plummet. He decides to pose a detective and travel to Virginia to figure out what is going on. He meets Susanna Kirkland, a journalist from Virginia City Pioneer, asks him for an interview. Sure, she's hot, but he's not interested in entertaining her. I mean, sure, her paper is publishing nonsense about his mine, but who has time to set the score straight when he's so busy scowling at the world in general? Priorities, people!

Meanwhile, Susanna is a typesetter who has been writing, finishing, or polishing articles for her colleague BD Elliott (who hi the bottle after his writing career went nowhere while his best friend Mark Twain's took off). Scoring an interview with the reporter who is nosing around the mines will elevate her to the big leagues. Can she score the home run with this assignment?

Well, that's the story. However, the author loads this thing with so many details about various secondary characters as well as the scenery that Susanna's Choice feels more like an Americana soap opera than a romance story. Even the main characters have their share of back stories that end up being not very relevant to the story in the long run. For example, the first few chapters go into some detail about how Susanna was taken in by her current family after her parents died of cholera during the journey through the Oregon Trail. Oh, and Rab killed his cousin in a duel with angst to follow. But despite all the words spent on detailing these things, they have little impact on the story!

Like much of everything else, all this information is dumped in because, I don't know, maybe because the author can do so. While this results in a story that resembles a scenic trip with plenty of things to see, the story itself takes forever to go somewhere. Reading this book is like taking part in a window shopping trip that just won't end. After a while, I wish that the author would stop distracting me with pretty things and get straight to the story.

Even then - or, perhaps because of the lack of focus - the characters are not very interesting.

Despite being twenty years older than Susanna, Rab thinks and feels often like a silly child, and I don't mean this in a good way. His biggest problem here is that he only shows a spine at the worst moments. He would not hesitate to shoot his cousin in a duel, for example, because manly men whack first and regret later, as the post-killing angst is a great way to get romance heroines to put out. Yet, when the stereotypical mercenary city girl forces him into an engagement by simply telling him that they are getting married, he not only can't summon the testicles to say no, he also strings Susanna along, sleeping with her, and then going, "Oops!" when she finds out about his fiancée. At the same time, he's raging about lying newspapers and their scumbag ways! Self-awareness is not one of Rab's strongest suits, clearly.

Susanna is a less hypocritical creature, and I actually like how she refuses to compromise on her ambitions just because Rab says so. She takes the time and effort to look into matters instead of accepting Rab's words wholesale. I like that. Unfortunately, the author also saddles Susanna with a bewildering baggage, where Susanna feels obligated to marry the useless son of the couple who took her in, even if they never really made her feel like part of the family. Why? I guess it's because the author thinks that such baggage looks pretty dangling around the heroine's neck.

The romance is superficially portrayed, as the author basically tells me that, yes, these two like each other and they are in love, so thanks for the $7.99, and come back again. Given that Rab is a hypocritical lying spineless twit for so long, I don't see he and Susanna can have a happily ever after. They don't really know each other when they tie the knot, after all!

Anyway, if you want to take a look at this one, stay for the scenery, not the romance.

Rating: 56


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