When Nikki and I found out that Ylva was rereleasing Backwards to Oregon, we were thrilled. THRILLED! We love the book and have each read it a few times and never, ever get tired of Luke and Nora. Since we couldn’t decide which of us would get to do the review we’re going to do it together.
In a nutshell, Backwards to Oregon is about the journey that Luke Hamilton and his new wife, Nora, take along the Oregon Trail. They’re moving from Missouri to Oregon so Luke can start up a horse ranch. Here are a few other things you should know: Luke is a woman passing as a man and Nora is a former prostitute who has a 3 year old daughter.
There are some minor spoilery things in this review so please be aware.
Cheri: I freaking love this book so hard!
Nikki: Could not agree more. I love Luke and Nora and I was so excited that they were coming out with a revised, expanded edition! I thought, what would be added? More to the end? More adorable togetherness after such a big build up? But, really, I had a hard time tracking down scenes that had been added. What about you?
Cheri: I was only able to identify one scene so I’m wondering if there were just some small expansions of existing scenes. I haven’t checked but I think the first scene may have been moved up from where it was previously a flashback. But I’m not 100% sure on that and don’t have the first edition handy.
It’s been several months since I’ve read the old one but I think I’d recognize something major added. I did, however, notice that the misused words and typos were pretty much all cleaned up. The notorious “bum in the oven” was corrected to “bun in the oven” so we can’t joke about that anymore. I only caught one typo: “scene” that was supposed to be “scent.” But I have to admit that I read the majority of the book with my ears (using a text to speech app) so there may have been some that got by me.
Nikki: I didn’t notice any glaring grammar problems, either, so that must have gotten cleaned up. But then you’re better at noticing things like that than I am.
They did include the short story “A Rooster’s Job” at the end, which I liked. However, I was hoping for a little bit more than that. One thing I’ve always wished with this book was that it included more after they finally acknowledged their feelings for each other. The book spends an extremely long time building up to that, and then it ends. Which always leaves me desperate for more of Luke and Nora! Jae alludes to a really touching scene in the short but didn’t add that into the main story, which I would have loved to see.
Cheri: I agree completely! I love the description of the journey and being a part of Luke and Nora learning to trust each other and, eventually, falling in love. But I adore reading about them after the big “reveal” and wish, WISH, there was more of that. I need to get the new book of shorts to see if that gives us a bit more. I’ve read all the ones that were available for free on the L-Book site but there are two new ones with compiled book Jae’s new publisher, Ylva, recently put out.
Nikki: I need to get that too. Because I will take any and all opportunities to read more about them. Normally, I’m not like that. I get tired of a couple and don’t care to learn more, but there is something about this couple that makes me want to read at least another book worth of their journey together. I want to know what their transition in Oregon was like, as it couldn’t have been easy with a new baby in tow!
And another thing. Normally, it irritates me to no end when the book goes on and on and on without the couple getting together, but that never bothers me with this book and I have no idea why. It also usually bothers me when characters don’t communicate with each other. I mean, Luke didn’t even know Nora had siblings until 2/3 of the way through! Normally that would drive me insane. But not with this couple.
Cheri: The reason that the non-communication thing doesn’t bother me in this one is because there’s really no time for them to talk about their families and past and stuff because they’re spending all their time trying not to get maimed or die.
I think this book really does have it all. It’s got two wonderful and complex main characters, a couple of total bastard bad guys, some terrific secondary characters – Tess and Bernice, for example – and the adventure of the physical journey across the country in wagons.
There’s so much about this book that I love that it would take a long time to discuss them all but I want to bring up Luke’s relationship with Nora’s daughter, Amy. Watching Luke grow into a complete family “man” just makes my heart happy.
Dammit! I started another book this morning but now I’m going to have to go read Hidden Truths.
Nikki: I love the relationship between Amy and Luke. Luke really is the best ‘father’ she could ask for. I knew you couldn’t resist it! I started Hidden Truths already this morning and will likely fly right through it.
All in all, still loved the book, would have liked a more ‘expansive’ expansion, but I still loved reading it. I’m not entirely sure it qualifies as “revised” as it was hard for me to pin down what was added, so whatever it was, it wasn’t big like I was hoping for.
Cheri: I’m not sure if there could really ever be an expansive enough expansion for us. I think that really does speak to how much we love this book.
Ok, I’m off to read Hidden Truths!
As some of you already know, I’ve been feeling a bit off the past couple of months. When I’m in a funk, I reject most of the reading I should be doing for reading that I want to do. That means that reviews that I should have done are still waiting to be done. And I’m not sure when I’ll get all caught up because I’m still a bit funky.
Since my funk reading list tends to be only old favorites, I thought I’d share what made the list. There are a few other books on the list because they were selected as Books of the Month for the Mostly Lesfic Goodreads group or for Cocktail Hour.
Ok, here we go! These are not in any order because I can’t remember in what order I read them. Some of them have already been reviewed here so I provided links to the older reviews.
Open to Persuasion by Allie (CanadaBadGirl) – This is one of my favorite SVU fics. I think Allie aka CanadaBadGirl or CBG is a great storyteller and I’ve read everything she’s written in the Bad Girls fandom but I think there are other SVU fics that she’s done and she may also write for other fandoms. Not sure. This story not only has a very good depiction of a relationship between Alex and Olivia but two good cases. I highly recommend it. Andy and I also featured this one on an episode of Cocktail Hour and I reviewed it previously here. I haven’t read that review recently so who knows what I said…
My Lord by Mayt – This is a super long, super angst filled, and super good Conqueror fic. Are there some issues grammatically? Sure. Does it take away from the epic tale? Not at all. This is possibly the best Conqueror story I’ve ever read. There are a total of 7 books and some are better than others but, overall, just a great series. Be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby. Mayt has plenty of other fics available and a published series that starts out with Hesed by Maytee Aspuro Y Gonzalez
Snowbound by Queenfor4 – I came across this story awhile ago during a browsing of Calli’s Creations galleries of covers. I’m one of those people who will pick up a book because the cover grabs me… I had forgotten about it until Cari Hunter’s Snowbound was selected as the Mostly Lesfic book for May and it came up during my search. So I read it a couple of days ago. I very much enjoyed it! Megan Galagher is a homophobic mystery writer who ends up snowbound with a lesbian doctor, Randi Oakes. The unfolding of the story is good and the relationship building is good, too. I’d read it again and do recommend it. A nice Xena Uber. I also just noticed that UK reviewed the story here awhile ago so you should see what she had to say, too.
Bonded by CBG – One of my very favorite stories in the Bad Girls fandom. CBG does angst like nobody’s business. She also has a very good grasp on the essence of the characters. A joy to read.
Biography & the sequel Plus Ca Change (or Ties That Bind) by CBG – Another favorite! AND this one has been published! You can find it under the name A Walk in the Rain by Alison Barnard. I grabbed the sample from Amazon to see if it started out differently and it appears to be exactly the same with the exception of changing the names of the characters that appeared in Bad Girls. I will, eventually, buy it to support the author but will probably wait until the next time I get the urge to read it. Shouldn’t be too long. Incognito also reviewed both of these stories here and here.
Reapers, Inc.- Brigit’s Cross by B. L. Newport – This was the April book of the month for the Mostly Lesfic group. We all agreed that it was pretty damn good. It’s the story of a newly dead woman who becomes a grim reaper. Initially, it was hard for me to get the image of Dead Like Me out of my head but as I got into it, it was definitely a good read. It’s the first in a series and you’ll probably want to pick up the second one just before you finish the first so you can move on. You’ll know if you want to continue by mid-book.
Soiled Dove by Brenda Adcock – I love westerns – especially westerns with brothels and whores. I didn’t really love this one but I didn’t dislike it either. It was ok. I enjoyed it mostly. I guess it just didn’t move me but it did give me a few hours of entertainment. I don’t not recommend it. You know what I mean?
The Road to Glory by Blayne Cooper & T. Novan – I’ve read this one before and enjoyed it but I enjoyed it even more the second time. I just love Cooper’s sense of humor and Novan’s ability to write angst and there’s lots of both here.
The Story of Me by Blayne Cooper – This short story is, in my opinion, fantastic. It’s classic Blayne Cooper. Stalkers, squirrels, and mishaps make this a very funny, well done romp.
None So Blind by LJ Maas – This is one of my very favorite romances of all time. It’s got the classic formula but Maas, I think, was a fabulous storyteller and I fell in love with both Torrey and Taylor. Yes, there are some issues – lots of flashbacks and many times when the lack of communication between the main characters makes you want to shake them violently – but I just don’t care. My dear friend, incognito, reviewed it here a long time ago so you can see what she had to say, too.
Balance of Forces: Toujour Ici by Ali Vali – I read this one for my appearance on Cocktail Hour with Andy and Ali Vali. It had been awhile since I read a book of Vali’s that I honestly enjoyed. I enjoyed this one. I don’t know if it was because it started out as an online fic – I love her old fan fic more than just about any book she’s put out – or if it’s just a good story, but I do recommend this one!
There were a few more but I can’t remember what they were. I’m still on the edges of the funk so who knows where that will take me!
Trout Recipe by Ellen Carey is one of the sweetest love stories that I have read. The story takes place in an era where people were exploring this great country and moving west from the cultured and educated East coast. One of these individuals is Claire Fontaine, a debutante who, although she is promised in marriage to the son of an aristocratic family, heads west to find her destiny and the woman of her dreams. The life that Claire and Gwen share together is the subject of this novel. Carey does a superb job of taking her reader out west to the hustle and bustle of western living. Her description of Gwen’s cattle ranch is so precise that one can taste the dust in their mouth. She is a story teller extraordinaire.
Both protagonists are lovable characters who love each other in a very sweet and genuine manner. It was a joy to be privy to the lives of Claire and Gwen and their family. The story of their life together is spun in such a way that the reader wants to know more about the details of their lives. This was a book that I could not put down once I began reading it. I cannot stop thinking about Claire and Gwen after reading this. They have become part of my life just as the author has allowed me to become part of their lives.
This is a must read for anyone who loves history, the great west and a sweet romance story.
I had read all of Ronica Black’s stuff on pdafiction.com and I enjoyed them very much, particularly In Too Deep. Hearts Aflame is the only of her published works that I’ve read and, like the non-published work, I liked it a lot.
Here’s a brief summary: Krista Wyler loves her job selling real estate, and she’s very good at it, but she’s feeling like something’s missing. Even casual sex has lost it’s appeal. While contemplating this fact, she gets a call that will change her life. Her aunt and uncle, who she hasn’t seen in 15 years, are no longer able to take care of themselves or the ranch that was a huge part of her young life. She takes off to help. What she finds is a dying aunt, an uncle who appears to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, and more bills than money. The ranch must be sold. This is completely unacceptable to Aunt Judith, who then conspires with her friend and veterinarian, Dr. Rae Jarrett, to figure out a way to save the ranch. Krista, in a moment of inspiration, comes up with the solution to turn the ranch into a dude ranch. Rae and Krista end up on the trail with the clients and that’s when we discover that the women each have some issues. Will they be able to get over them to find love?
I like the author’s writing style and she tells a good story. I was drawn in quickly and didn’t lose interest at all. Black paints a great picture with her words and I was able to feel like I was sitting around the camp fire with the characters. Technically, it was very good and there was nothing that I got hung up on grammatically. The only thing that holds me back from REALLY liking the book is that I don’t understand Rae’s hesitations. I can’t go into it here without going into spoiler territory. I know how I was supposed to feel about it but I just couldn’t buy into it. Krista’s trauma seemed much more understandable to me, although it still seemed a bit extreme.
So, if you think you’d like a romance with cowgirls, good sex, and plenty of angst, Hearts Aflame is for you. It’s a nice read for a lazy day.
Towards Sunset is a westernish uber that has notorious criminal, Jess Chambers – aka Hellrider – meeting the naive and innocent schoolteacher Martha America Gabrielle Brunson – aka Mattie. This is a fairly short fic but it is well written with no typos or other grammatical issues that I noticed. I’ve read plenty of Ms. Street’s work and I don’t think I’ve had any complaints yet.
I don’t want to say much about this story because I don’t want to ruin any of it for you but I did enjoy it. I needed a break from some heavier reading and this was just the short distraction I needed. Thanks to Della Street for another lighthearted happy ending. Like you didn’t see that part coming…