|Not having read the previous two “Whispering Mountain” novels doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of this wonderfully written, romantic and delightful story. Tall, Dark and Texan is definitely one you won’t want to miss.
Teagen McMurray grew up very quickly when he became the head of the household at age 13. He was left with two brothers, a baby sister and a ranch at the base of Whispering Mountain. All he has known is that he must protect and fight for what is his. Luckily a woman named Martha came along to help him and despite her gruffness on the outside, she stood by him and helped him with the parts of raising kids he never would have handled on his own. His Apache grandfather helped teach the boys things like tracking and hunting. Over the years, Teagen learned to shy away from conversation and has a reputation as a solitary man who is not friendly; in fact, most of the townspeople are afraid of him.
But Teagen has one person he can share his feelings with and though he does’t even really know him, he considers him a friend. Eli Barton is a bookseller in Chicago and they have been exchanging letters for years when Teagen ordered books. But there is one little detail Teagen doesn’t know. The letters were really written by Eli’s wife, Jessica. Jessie is now a widow and as the story opens, she packs up her three girls and heads to Texas. Her husband, who was never a really good husband and father, has just died and his mother is threatening to take her daughters away from her.
Jessie, who considers Teagen a friend because of all they have shared in their letters, hopes that Teagen is the man she knows from the letters and will at least let them stay until she can figure out what to do. She tells him she needs a place to stay while waiting for relatives to come from the West and as a back-up, she writes a final letter from Eli asking Teagen to take care of his wife and family.
Teagen and Jessie are well matched. Teagen bristles and Jessie stands up to him. She and her three little girls charm their way into his world. Emily, the oldest, is shy but discovers she loves horses. Rose is the mother hen and wants to teach the world, so her curiosity is her way of learning. And Bethie is just a toddler but has a way of doing as she pleases without worrying about the frowns she may get or the gruffness that should have warned her away.
The tension in the story comes from not only the sexual attraction these two adults feel and their love that develops, but also from the threat of a band of outlaws who have decided to take the McMurray horses and if possible the whole ranch by force. Teagen gets help from his sister Sage, her possible future love interest, Roak and some members of the Texas Rangers, who were friends of his two brothers. The characters are developed and come to life as we see Texas through the eyes of men who love the land and have been born to live on it.
The relationship between Teagen and Jessie built as the story developed and they discovered that they could talk to each other just like they wrote to each other. When Teagen discovers that Jessie lied about there being relatives on the way to meet her, and then that she was the letter writer, not Eli, they resolve their differences like adults. There is anger and disappointment, but they actually talk about it and work through the issues. The sexual tension builds, but Teagen acts like a man who really loves this woman when he gives her time to get used to him. This is a subtle romance in that they are passionate with a lot of foreplay as they learn about each other and work through what kind of relationship they are going to have.
Thomas knows Texas and this is one of her best stories yet. I fell in love with the McMurrays and plan to go back and read the other “Whispering Mountain” stories. Tall Dark and Texan is worth the price of a paperback these days and is one of those stories that you will want to go back to time and time again.