by Sarah McCarty, historical (2008)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22419-9
Oh, silly me. Nothing on the cover warned me that Promises Reveal is actually part of an on-going series that started with the author's Promises Linger, published by Ellora's Cave back in 2004, but I'm sure the fault is with me, as always, when it comes to not rushing out at once to buy those books I'm missing out on once I realized that this book couldn't stand alone.
Okay, from what I understand, in a previous story our heroine Evie Washington had a brilliant idea. Fascinated by the then-new preacher in town, Reverend Brad Swanson, she decided to paint him in the way God intended all man to be when they first came into this world. Not only that, she displayed the painting to enough people to find herself at the receiving end of a shotgun marriage to Brad. When Promises Reveal opens, these two are getting ready for the celebration in the church.
Evie is like, "I'm intelligent and I'm also a feminist, but can someone please tell me how I am being forced to marry a man because folks believe that he has compromised me? I don't understand why they would get that idea just because I painted him nude!" Throughout this story, she will behave in a self-absorbed manner that marks her as a very young person - she is very self-centric here, concerned with things affect her while sparing little thought about other people. Why would Brad love her? Why would so-and-so help her? How does this twist in the story affect her? It's always about Evie here. She's not particularly bright, but her self-absorbed and sheltered perception of the world marks her as a shallow and immature person rather than a deliberately petty and selfish person. The thing is, I don't know if such a portrayal of Evie is intentional on the author's part.
As for Brad, he is actually an ex-outlaw hoping to lay low for a while by posing as a preacher. Actually, his past doesn't seem like a secret here as every secondary character that matters knows about it and he also has a politically correct version of Tonto to complement his Hot Cowboy Dude image. His sole angst here is that he is of course no good for Evie. Drama will arise when his past catches up with him.
The problem with this story is that it has a very big cast. Evie and Brad have many preexisting relationships with so many people that it is a chore to figure out who is who in this story. For about a quarter or so of this story, it is all about wedding preparation that also double as a roll call for what seems like people from previous stories in this series to show up and say hello. After 100 pages, I can only wonder why I am working so hard to figure out the big cast when the story isn't interesting enough to warrant such effort.
The sex scenes are still the best aspects of this story, although they are watered down considerably so that readers unfamiliar with erotic romances will not keel over in shock. But the rest of the story are plain uninteresting fare since I have no interest in seeing past characters show up and wave hello nor do I find the clichéd outlaw blues of the story particularly intriguing. Brad is a clichéd hero while Evie is a self-absorbed twit who thinks she is so clever when she's the last person to realize that Brad doesn't behave like a man of God from the start.
As for historical accuracy, well, I don't have to comb the story with a fact-checker to realize that there are plenty of not-so-accurate moments here. Evie's character is itself an anachronism as she is pretty much a contemporary emo young lady transplanted into the late 1800s.
Promises Reveal not only doesn't have much to offer a reader new to the series like me, it also makes me work hard through pages after pages of poorly paced and dull writing in order to come to that realization. Talk about a punishment of a read.
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