When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society --and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life...
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control.
Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?
Buy Links:Barnes & Noble Nook
Andrea Downing's Loveland is a historical western romance set in 1880's Colorado during the heyday of the Wild West. The author pays meticulous attention to detail and historical accuracy and manages to recreate the ethos and atmosphere of the era without burdening the story with excessive information. Loveland has a mood rather like "Little House on the Prairie" or maybe "Bonanza", immersing the reader entirely in a time and a place. Additionally, the story moves back and forth between the culture of the old west and Victorian England, creating startling contrasts between the two societies, which serves to reinforce the distinctness of each. My hat is off to the author for her mastery of world building and historical recreation.
The story begins with the return of seventeen-year-old Lady Alex, daughter of an English Duke, to a ranch located in Colorado, managed by her uncle. Headstrong Alex has a complicated and rather tragic back story. Her mother died when she was young, her father has sent her into exile because of a scandal, and no one had ever really loved or wanted her as a child. Gradually, the facts associated with the scandal become clear, and Alex must endure censor from members of the Colorado community who disapprove of her.
Lady Alex spent four years on the ranch in her youth, and grew up as something of a wild child. She loves horses and nature, craves freedom and independence. She has strong bonds with many of the ranch hands, including the hero, Jesse Makepeace, whom she knew between the ages of eight and twelve. The pair start out sharing a strong affection rooted in this bond, which is initially familial, rather like an older brother and younger sister.
Jesse is ten years older than Alex, but he has never married. He begins the story working on the ranch as a hired hand and eventually becomes the manager. As a hero, he embodies every ideal that women love about cowboys. He is strong, courageous, patient, loyal and gentle. He isn't perfect. He has a bit of a temper and suffers from a sweet vulnerability that only increases his appeal, making him seem more accessible. If he were real, he would be an easy man to love.
Downing deftly handles the evolution of the hero and heroine's feelings for one another. Initially, I feared the transition would be rushed, but there was no cause for concern. Loveland's plot spans a period from 1881 to 1889, patiently progressing through rough economic times for the ranch and even tougher emotional trials for the characters.
My only criticism would be that Lady Alex often comes across as emotionally immature and selfish. Of course, her age and circumstances should be taken into consideration. As a seventeen year old, she lacks Jesse's maturity and empathy. She is a girl and not a woman who desperately needs a mother willing to say no. Because she is pretty and precocious, the men in her life indulge her. They are bewildered and befuddled and do not know now to deal with her tantrums. She shouts (paraphrasing here): "Or what? What will you do?" Her uncle is clueless. The mother in me longs to hear: "You're grounded until you behave, child. No more horseback riding and wiling away your life doing whatever you please. You'll do chores. You'll learn there are other people in this world besides you."
Unfortunately, no one ever gives the girl and love and structure that she craves, and so her emotional immaturity serves as the primary source of internal conflict throughout the story. Fortunately, Alex does grow up by the conclusion in time for true love's happy ending.
I do wish to note here that the reader should not interpret my words to mean that the novel is boring. Never. Downing keeps the action moving right along with gunfights, cattle stampedes and even an old west carnival. Loveland is always entertaining. Secondary characters are especially well developed and distinct. Love scenes are sensual. Loveland appears to be Downing's first published novel, which makes it an even more remarkable achievement. This is one of those rare occasions when I'd go higher than five stars and the author truly deserves it.