Monday, August 19, 2013

Passionate Romance on the Oregon Trail ~ Review of The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge

Excellent debut for this author. Unlike many first time novelists who struggle to find their voice, Connelly writes with confident, heartfelt style, even if heroine Evie is a bit of a nervous wreck (and rightly so, given the circumstances).

The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge surprised me with a wonderful twist early in the book after a serious injury alters the hero, Ben, dramatically. Much of the book takes place on the Idaho-Oregon trail circa 1891, where Evie struggles with the startling change in her husband after five bitter years of a less-than-storybook marriage. Ben has his own problems dealing with his new life, as well. Connelly blends and weaves together their emotional transformation skillfully, as these two slowly, if not surely, find their way toward a new home, the rediscovery of sexual intimacy, and the joyful rebirth of their romantic selves. As Evie learns, this cowboy has a sexy charm that won't be denied.

One of the things I appreciated most about this novel was the amount of detail running in the background. Connelly lovingly describes the rich setting of the Oregon frontier as only a lifelong resident could (though the mention of various wildlife became slightly repetitive). I instantly wanted to hit the road and explore the territory covered in the book to see what remnants of that pioneer life remain.

I also gained a vivid understanding of how physically harsh, dangerous and stressful such a life must have been for the intrepid souls who traveled the West's early "highways." Other western romances usually breeze over the realities, but after reading The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge, I am doubly thankful for cars, cellphones, and the Internet.

Reviewer's note: Didn't quite understand the heroine's serious dislike of burned bacon. All bacon is good bacon.

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