Monday, July 19, 2010
Unbridled by Beth Williamson
Hell hath no fury like Alex Finley…
For as long as Alex could remember, life had taken everything from her. Her father had abandoned her and her dying mother, only to return upon her death to reclaim the family’s Wyoming ranch–with a new wife. Alex’s rage drove her away to Los Angeles to live with a man who could never satisfy her.
Only after ten years does she come home–and she hits the town with a vengeance, unleashing her pent-up lust on willing cowpoke Connor Matthews. But she’s in for several shocks. It turns out that the ranch is now a resort, that her late father split the estate between Alex and her young step-brother, and that Connor–the bucking bronco she wants in her bed–is running the place.
Now, Alex is torn between accepting a new family, and a lover who can give her everything she needs–or selling out to a smooth-talking neighbor and leaving the past behind her. But only when her life is on the line does she realize what she desires most of all…
Although I've read Williamson's contemps, it's always been her historicals that spoke to me. I feel like historicals are her strong suit. However, Unbridled was really, really good. I admit to being worried when there was a menage in chapter 1, but it had meaning, and from there out Williamson built a beautiful story of 2 lost souls finding each other. Feelings are raw and the language is raw to match.
When Alex finally works up the courage to go home after 10 years, she discovers that she can't deal with her feelings of anger toward her father because he has died. This leaves her no outlet for her hurt feelings and anger, and so she lashes out at the people around her. She comes off as coarse, rough, and frankly, a little mean. Once she begins to deal with her feelings, and begins to spend time with Conor, she starts to soften up, and discovers that she isn't the only person affected at the ranch. I admit, she had a lot to deal with. Her family home was no longer her home, but a vacation ranch. Her father wasn't there, but the woman she saw at her mother's funeral and her son were both there. It takes Alex a while to realize that, no, the world does not revolve around her.
For his part, Conor didn't want to believe anything bad about Alex's father - he had taken Conor in at a time when nobody else would, and treated him like a son. Conor had heartbreak in his past as well, mostly of his own making. But he matured and got over it. One could argue that because Conor had a guiding hand as he went through his early 20s, he was better able to cope and come to terms with his past. Alex, on the other hand, missed out on her father's guidance and support, and was therefore years behind in dealing with her hurt. There was a point, though, when I wanted to scream at her to just get over it already and grow up. And, thankfully, that's when she did.
Another thing that bothered me was the overuse of "cowboy" during sex. It's a personal pet peeve of mine. Every time I read it, I think it sounds contrived and fake emotionally. Otherwise this was an emotional, deep story, with well-drawn characters and a nice sense of family (yes, even though it took a long time to get there). The characters made their own chosen family, and whenever that happens, it's always a nice touch.
But please, please, please, authors - there is no need for the suspense plot in an otherwise well-fleshed book. This isn't Williamson's to own alone, but almost every author out there. Why must they persist in this? This book would have been just as strong, IMO, had the neighbor just been an asshole and nothing else. Ok, rant over.
Anyway, I think this is by far Williamson's best contemporary, those few issues I had aside.