The Blushing Bride

The Dreammaker

The Heart of a Hero

The Last Bride in Texas
by Judith Stacy
(Harl. Historicals, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29141-8
The Last Bride in Texas is no such thing and the cover has absolutely nothing to do with anything in the story. And things don’t improve much from there.

Connor Wade has arrived in the sleepy Texas town of Sterling and is enjoying a meal at a local café when three rather moronic outlaws attempt to rob the bank in broad daylight right in front of the sheriff. Connor is loath to involve himself, but when his attempts to get a second cup of coffee are ignored, he decides to step in and help bring things to a conclusion. He dispatches two outlaws easily. This third is a bigger challenge, as he steps out of the bank holding a gun to the head of a young woman. A pretty young woman. The woman that Connor has come to town to see, as it turns out.

Connor manages to shoot the man and gain Elizabeth Hill her freedom. So far, this book had been sharp and even somewhat comedic. Then Elizabeth opens her mouth and displays her character. Instead of thanking him, she screams at him for ruining her shawl with his gunshot and then punches him in the stomach.

This book very nearly hit the trash can right then and there. Readers can forgive a lot, but idiot heroines aren’t usually one of them. The town declares Connor a hero, much to his discomfort. Elizabeth, sulkily admitting she should have at least thanked the man, takes a pie to his hotel room as a gift, then declares he’s an ingrate when he points out that her life is worth more than a pie.

Good thing Connor thought so, because this reader sure didn’t. Elizabeth lives alone in one of the grandest houses in town, her doctor father having died and her brother having left town after doing something nefarious. Whatever the brother did, (and readers don’t find out until near the end of the story) Elizabeth feels shamed and believes the townsfolk look down on her. There’s little evidence of this, other than the snooty mayor’s wife, and as she’s described as being snooty to everyone, Elizabeth’s troubles appear to be simply the result of self-pity and victimization.

Connor has secrets to hide and reasons to get to know Elizabeth. He overhears her plans to turn her home into a boardinghouse, then arrives on her doorstep offering to trade his carpentry skills for room and board. You can take the story from there.

Clunky writing doesn’t help the cause. Connor doesn’t walk, he moseys. He doesn’t sit, he plops down. People have “hissy fits” (was that a common term in 1882?) Even the descriptions don’t make sense at times. For example:

“This room is very large,” she said. “Could it be made into two rooms?”
A bureau, washstand, and small writing desk filled the room.

So is it a large room? Or not? Hard to tell and distracting to boot.

Connor, for his part, is a likable character. He’s got a good sense of humor, is self-deprecating, and doesn’t understand why Elizabeth doesn’t do as she pleases and to hell with the townsfolk. He even points out that most of them seem to like her, not that it does any good. It felt as though he’d wandered into the wrong romance. He deserved a much better heroine than Elizabeth, and their attraction fell flat because of this.

The Last Bride in Texas offers little in the way of a fresh story or entertaining heroine. The engaging hero alone isn’t enough to carry this story. If you’re into western historicals, I recommend you look elsewhere.

--Cathy Sova

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