Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review | An Uncommon Protector

An Uncommon Protector
(A Lone Star Hero's Love Story #1)
Shelley Shephard Gray

Publisher:  Zondervan
Genre:  Christian Fiction, Westerns, Historical Fiction
Released:  February 7th, 2017

Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convict—a man who’s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one year post.

The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can.

When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.

Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again.

But when cattle start dying and the squatters damage a barn, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero who’s survived a terrible past. He needs more than just his freedom, he needs her love and care too.
 

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers

{The Basics}
Former Confederate sergeant Thomas Baker has endured a hard life.  Orphaned at eight years of age, he's been on his own ever since.  Eventually, he joined the Confederate Army and served with bravery and honor until he and a few more men of his company were imprisoned in a POW (prisoners of war) camp on Johnson's Island in Ohio.  After acquiring freedom a couple years later, he finds himself once again imprisoned in a small town jail in Sweetwater, Texas for gambling.  Only when the pretty and sweet Miss Laurel Tracey comes to bargain for his hired freedom to work on her endangered ranch, does his life take a new turn and a new purpose.  

Laurel Tracey has had to survive many trials, most of them on her own.  The Red Roan Ranch, property left to her by her deceased parents, is all she has left and she is determined to keep it, no matter what it takes.  Usually a rather compliant and gentle lady, she finds herself being bold and brave in hiring a convict to help save her ranch.  His contract is for one year, but as the days go on and their relationship grows, she discovers a wish he could stay forever.  

{Positives}
I admire Laurel's gentle and kind temperament.  Never once does she complain about the burden she carries in managing her ranch.  Even with the lack of help she receives from her two stepsiblings and the insults and discouragement to her person and pressure to sell her beloved land, she refuses to back down.  

Camaraderie and friendship is highly valued, especially among that of Thomas's fellow soldiers.  They make promises to look out for one another, and they keep them. 

{Negatives}
When her stepsiblings move out from her ranch house she is left alone.  And with the threats and danger to her ranch and person, she asks her hired hand, Thomas, to move into the house a few rooms from her own.  [While this is completely improper, especially with no one else present in the home, I would most likely have done the same.  I can't imagine being alone in a big, creaky house with squatters threatening my way of life and skulking around my property leaving dead calves on my doorstep. . . (more on that in a minute)]

A note relays a threat to poison a portion of the water supply that her ranch runs on.

Laurel's stepsiblings, Bess and Jerome, are a rather high and mighty pair and expect Laurel to see to their every need.  They look down upon her, discourage her, and insult her appearance and wisdom.  

{Spiritual Content}
Both Laurel and Thomas have relied on their Lord for the past few years.  And they pray continually and before every meal.

{Violence}
A man is brutally whipped while in jail.  We learn he has sustained many more scars.  A story is told where that same man's family was slaughtered in an Indian attack many years before.

A calf is found dead on Laurel's front step.  She opens the door to find it there and staring open-eyed.  (Pretty disconcerting for sure. . .)  We learn that it, among other cattle, have been poisoned with kerosene.  

A man is killed, shot between the eyes, in cold blood.

Two characters, who are surveying the ranch's property, are nearly gunned down.  I don't believe they were in danger too deeply as the gunmen only meant to scare them, despite their boss's orders. . . 

A man punches another in the face.

{Language, Alcohol & Drugs}
None.  Saloon's are mentioned and the spending one's wages on drinks.  

{Lovey-ness}
Nothing too sensual at all.  There is obvious attraction between Laurel and Thomas from the start, of course.  (Which makes the moving into same house all the more inappropriate. . . regardless of any necessity--but nothing happens!! I assure you.  I just know it to be extremely unwise.)

They embrace a time or two.  He brushes a strand of hair from her face.  They have a longing to feel how the other's lips feel. . . Wonder how it would be to care for the other, permanently.  Etc., etc.   

{Conclusion}
Overall, this was a sweet story.  And I love westerns!  I only gave a four-star rating due to the quality of writing (just seemed a little under par, in my opinion) and development of characters.  They were not wholly exciting, just rather a little dull and so-so.  Laurel, especially.  She did what she felt was right, but was very dependent--which, don't get me wrong! there's nothing wrong with that--I just found her to be a bit wimpy.  But, if I'm honest, she reminded me of myself and how I would most likely act if put in her situation. . . So. . . to conclude!  I enjoyed this tale and didn't want to put it down.  It was a refreshing read, and a great reminder that one doesn't need foul language and sensuality.  As one of my all-time favorite authors puts it:

"I've written all these stories [well over 100] without any pornography, without any obscenity.  I grew up among sailors and miners and lumberjacks and the roughest kind of men in the world, but I never found it necessary to use all that in the stories. I can make them real without that.  I think much of that kind of writing is a cover up for lack of real skill."
- Louis L'Amour -

Ms Gray's story here was an incredibly clean, goodly enjoyable Western adventure where one woman, realizing she cannot fight on her own strengths, enlists the help of others and relies heavily on her Lord to see her through.  Would definitely recommend to any who enjoy a good Western.  :]


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Recommended ages: 16+


Have a lovely day, dearies!
Sarah

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