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.