Monday, July 6, 2009

The Coming Home Place - Mary Spencer

Elizabeth Beck had lost everyone she loved during the arduous journey from Tennessee to California. So when a handsome, blond stranger rescued her from outlaws, she was almost too frightened and dazed to notice her pulse quicken at his touch. Not wanting to be a burden, Elizabeth planned to say good bye when they were safe--until he made an outrageous proposition.
James Kagan, a wealthy California rancher, had closed his heart to
love after his childhood sweetheart died in a train crash. But when he saw the young, quietly beautiful Elizabeth, he sought to ease his loneliness. And though the past threatened to force them apart, the two independent souls discovered that the only place they truly belonged was in each other's arms.

I do like intense and poignant stories and this book seemed exactly my kind of thing. It does have an older feel to it but that is not what bothered me the most.

When the story opens James Kagan is forced by a band of Mexican outlaws to marry a young girl they found on the road trying to dig a grave for her dead father. While they may be outlaws their leader has a somewhat twisted sense of honour and knowing a young girl alone would be easy prey for every man with less than honourable intentions he decided to force someone to protect her.

She is Elizabeth Beck and she has just lost her whole family while travelling west. She doesn't want to be a burden to James and after they leave the outlaws camp she tells him she intends to find work and support herself, however James has just lost is fiancée in a train accident and finds that Elizabeth may be the company he so desires to have on his now empty house. He can't love her but he will protect her and support her if she will keep his house and bear his children.

From the beginning it feels that both Elizabeth and James have different ideas about what their relationship is. While Elizabeth feels she was given a job, and so her main priority is to have the house spotlessly clean, the food on the table on the right time, etc etc James feels she is a cold woman because she never seems to care about anything except work. One of the main problems in their relationship is that James is still pining for his dead fiancée and in one scene in particular he has an unforgivable attitude. It's no wonder Elizabeth doesn't feel comfortable enough with him and so none of them realizes what the other is feeling and hoping for and they both find it easier to speak to James' friend Nathan than with each other. I found it very difficult to like James, even when we see that he would like to make something more of his relationship with Elizabeth he is always so oblivious to her feelings and so convinced that he is the right that it is rather annoying.

There's a pivotal scene in the middle of the book but I hesitate to mention it here as it constitutes a huge spoiler. At the same I suppose what matters is how they go from there towards the HEA. Suffice to say that if James behaviour had not been up to par till then it gets worse. I could accept it if he had gone home to beg Elizabeth's forgiveness to never do it again, it is also clear that the other person involved is not a saint and while I could see James was not ready to see that I couldn't understand why didn't he put a stop to what was going on and again gone back to beg Elizabeth's forgiveness. I could understand how divided he must have felt even after he realised he did love Elizabeth (although it took him a long time to get there) and when he realised that she loved him (strangely enough he spends half the book thinking she doesn't when everyone can see that she does) but there really is no excuse for him having left her all alone when the coach arrives and not having spent the next week (month? year?) making up for it. Fans of poignant scenes will love this one.

Although I don't usually like love triangles (and this book has two) that wasn't what bothered me the most. However this is one of those books where readers will be divided in the end regarding who should Elizabeth have stayed with (and unfortunately it doesn't seem like Spencer wrote a book for the other man). What really bothered me was that after he realises he has no future with the other woman James doesn't rush into trying to conquer Elizabeth that he loves, he keeps living with the other woman while she is still in town for a couple of month till in the last few chapters he decides to won her back. Well it's one of those cases of too little too late. But of course, she loves him and that's that.

So while I did love the book's intense feelings and distressing scenes (right up my alley that part) I really wasn't that happy with James and his behaviour and that's why I'm lowering my grade. There is a book about James' brother and I guess I'll just have to find it to see what happened to the characters after this story ends. Oh and one final world for the outlaw that brings them together in the beginning, he does appear again and I get the feeling he would have made a pretty good hero if he hadn’t found himself on the wrong side of the law one time too many.

Grade: 4/5

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