Thursday, June 19, 2008


Title: Lawless
Author: Nora Roberts
Genre: Historical (Western) Romance


Half-Apache and all man, Jake Redman was more than a match for the wild Arizona Territory. Sarah Conway, on the other hand, was an Eastern lady who belonged anywhere else but on the rugged land Jake loved. Still, the stubborn beauty was determined to make Lone Bluff her home . . .
Though Jake was annoyed to find himself playing guardian angel to this tantalizing innocent, he was even more disgusted to find he liked it. Because beneath Sarah's ladylike demeanor beat the heart of a true pioneer, a women he yearned to make his own.

Nora Roberts wrote Western historicals? Really? Who knew? Not me, certainly. In my first "last visit" to my closing used book store I picked up such an oddity. Lawless is set in the Arizona Territory in 1875. The land and it’s people are still rough and unruly. Gold prospecting is the passion of both the law abiding and the lawless. Into this rough and tumble world walks Sarah Conway, the daughter of a local gold prospector. Left back East to be raised and educated as a lady, Sarah has decided that it is high time to join her father out west in the beautiful home he has created for them to share. Little did she realize, as she set out across the country, that her father had spun her letters full of hopes and dreams, based little in reality. It is only after narrowly escaping capture by a band of Apache that Sarah discovers the truth about her father’s home. Saddened and determined by his very recent death, Sarah vows to stay in Lone Bluff to create a life for herself where her father once lived.

Jake Redman is tough and aloof. A loner who lives by his wits and his guns. As he is returning to the town he most recently called home, he intercepts a traveling coach being set upon by a band of Indians. After delivering the passengers to safety, he feels compelled to ensure Sarah’s well being. After attempts to convince her to turn around and head back East have failed, he finds himself lingering in her vicinity (against his better judgement.) He is (of course) drawn to her.

At first I worried that Sarah was TSTL (too stupid to live.) She just kept doing the dumbest things. Then again, she is 17 years old and has lived a sheltered life. It was a relief to see the growth the character shows through the book. The clueless child at the beginning turns into a stubborn, determined woman. She makes sure to learn how to properly shoot a rifle... and actually practices. She hires on a local to help out and asks him to teach her how to do things for herself. She finds a viable way to support herself financially (although, it is a bit hard to believe she can sew quite that well.) By the end I really liked her. When she storms into the local brothel and confronts the madam.... woo hoo!
Jake is... a classic Nora Roberts hero. Deep, stoic, reluctant to love. He wants to be with the heroine, yet he wants to protect her from the life he leads. Jake would rather walk away, sacrificing his own wants and desires, than stay and see Sarah get hurt. Of course, she is having none of that self-sacrificing bulls**t. Doesn’t matter that she is only 17 years old (a child really). She knows what she wants.
When I started the book her age was an issue for me. Yup, I’m getting old. Historicals are becoming a problem for me. My heroines need at be at least 25 years old. I know what I was like prior to that. Thought I knew everything I wanted. Thought I was all grown up. Yeah. Not so much. (I know I am generalizing here by saying anyone under 25 does not have life figured out. This is my issue as a person and a reader. I know that.) Here’s the thing, the more I read the book the less I thought about her age. Eventually I forgot. Ms. Roberts is that good. Now, I won’t say that this is one of her best books, but as a friend of mine pointed out today, even her worst books are still good by comparison to other authors. You could tell this was an earlier work (1989), but it still contained all the hallmarks of a NR story: strong hero, heroine who takes no guff from him, mortal danger hovering over them both, and relationships (romantic, family, friends.)
If you are looking for a "classic", yet less popular Nora Roberts experience, this is the book to pick up. It is an interesting look at her early style, to see how she has grown and what she has retained.

Grade: B


Carrie Lofty said...

I think that just proves how exceedingly popular western historicals were in the very late 80s. It was everywhere. Just didn't realize Nora had done one too :)

Sarai said...

So can you believe I have never read a Nora Roberts book? EVER? JD Robb yes Nora no? I know same person but 2 different genres.

See if it helps when they are 17 back this their mind really is 25 b/c they were taught differently then we were. They were married younger and had children earlier so a 25 year old is like 30... give or take (history major)

Shannon said...

Carrie- Yeah, it does seem that an overwhelming majority of western historicals come from the 80's.

Sarai- Oh, I completely understand the historical perpcetive on the age of the heroine. Logically, I know that, but for some reason every time I see that she is still in her teens I just... can't. My bigger problem isn't always the actual age, but the TSTL qualities that I keep running into with historical heroines I read about. I know there are plenty of TSTL characters in contemps, but I am the lucky person who keeps picking up the historicals littered with such gals.

nath said...

I think that's the only Western that NR has ever written... and it was actually connected to another book, Love Jack. In love Jack, the heroine (Jackie) is an aspiring writer... writing a western... i.e. Lawless.