02 March, 2013

Review: Heaven With A Gun by Connie Brockway

*Somewhat disappointingly, this is not a tribute to the 1969 film.

The most I can come up with for Heaven With A Gun is that it was fine. Perfectly acceptable. That's sort of the review kiss of death, I know. This novella is neither compelling enough for me to remember the leads names nor offensive enough for me to have renamed them something like The D-Bag Duke. It's a western with a reporter and an outlaw. There. We're done. Wait, we're not? Ok, uhhhh...  I didn't love HWAG but I certainly liked it.

There's a pretty equal mix of charm and tedium in here. Saloon whores with hearts of gold. Hot headed youth. You know the deal.  The heroine's backstory isn't shown. It's strictly told. This is a shame because her history prior to the hero is the most engaging part of the book. I loved her meeting him, I loved her mind, I loved how she got her reputation. I tolerated her motivation and life choices. The hero starts strong too. I enjoyed his early mid life crisis, his cynicism and desire to shake the West off his shoes. Somehow putting them together diminished both of them. Our heroine falls for the hero because he's the hero and vice versa. Not in a bad way, just in a very conventional way that is perfectly... fine.

I suppose my hopes were high for this story. The Americana side of the genre hasn't knocked my socks off since Morsi. It's been a long dry spell for me and American historical. Plus, I love a good western. What's not to adore about European Colonialism using corrupt political motivations to clear indigenous populations? That is some prime drama there. Some of the early frontier towns were models of multiculturalism. (Much of what we learn in grade school is a heavily fictionalized account of how the West went white.)  Liking  HWAG fine just wasn't quite enough. I think Brockway could have made an interesting full length book out of the characters she created for the novella. The ending felt rushed, almost anticlimactic. Some of the early details begged for full length scenes.  If you're jonesing for a lightly comedic western you can do much, much worse than HWAG. I couldn't help wishing it had been just a bit better.

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