Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Review: Stages of the Heart by Jo Goodman

Stages of the Heart
Jo Goodman
Release: May 4, 2020
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Love guides even the most cautious of hearts home as USA Today bestselling author Jo Goodman returns to the trails of the Colorado frontier.

Experience has taught Laurel to be suspicious of the men who pass through Morrison Station. She's been running the lucrative operation that connects Colorado's small frontier town of Falls Hollow with the stagecoach line since she inherited it from her father, and she's not about to let some wandering cowboy take over the reins. But newcomer McCall Landry isn't just any gunslinger. He seems to genuinely care for Laurel, and with his rugged good looks and mysterious past, he could be the one man to finally tempt her off track...

Call Landry doesn't expect much from Falls Hollow. He doesn't expect much from anything anymore. But Laurel Morrison took him by surprise when she put in a good word for him, a virtual stranger, after the stagecoach was robbed--and she keeps taking him by surprise. Charmed by her clever wit and fierce loyalty, Call finds himself falling hard. Now all he has to do is convince her he means to stay--in her bed, in her life, and in her heart.

I grew up reading westerns with my dad so reading a western romance feels like coming home in a way. Over the years I've come to love the romances put out by Jo Goodman. They always have interesting settings that just embody what I picture the Old West to be like and they're always filled with intriguing characters. The thing I love the most about Jo Goodman's books is that even if I don't love them, I enjoy them. I haven't read one of her books that I haven't liked but I do love a few more than the others.

While I didn't love love Stages of the Heart, I enjoyed the heck out of it. It's set a few year after the end of the Civil War in a station town on a stagecoach line that's hoping to be a station or close to a station on the inevitable railroad line. I loved the glimpse we got of how a stagecoach line was run with the switching of the teams and drivers! I was intrigued with the day-to-day operations of Morrison Station as I was the stagecoach line. And it was refreshing to see the impact the Civil War had on the West. It was a major event in the US but we often don't see the effects it had on the frontier towns compared to the East Coast where the majority of the battles were fought. It added a unique spin to the story.

This book has a mystery/suspense plot that kept me guessing to the end. At first, it seemed like it was a run-of-the-mill robbery and an easy case to solve but it turned out to be more way more complex. I spent most of the book trying to figure out the whodunit as the story progressed and I was only successful at guessing a small part of the overall scheme before it was revealed.

As for the characters, I loved Laurel and how down-to-Earth, no-nonsense she is. She's had to be tough and smart to keep Morrison Station running and successful. I loved that about her! Her interactions with her employees who she considers family were intriguing and heartwarming. Call, for a newcomer, fit in splendidly with everyone. I quite enjoyed Call's easygoing manner and how he conducted the investigation into who stole the mine's payroll. He's seen a lot between the war and his time working for different stagecoach lines. It was fun watching him and Rooster interact and how he slowly became more confident in the work he was doing outside of the investigation and handling the horses.

The thing I wasn't sold on was the romance between Call and Laurel. Overall, the romance was okay. It worked for me by the end but I was pretty skeptical of their feelings for each other most of the book. There's just something about how their romance evolved that didn't sell me on it and I haven't been able to pinpoint why that is. But that's a small thing compared to how much I loved everything else about the story.

When I'm asked for western romance recs, I always recommend Jo Goodman. If you're looking for a quick western romance with a unique setting that has an awesome historical fiction vibe and an excellent mystery, then Stages of the Heart is the book for you. You won't regret picking it up!

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  4 / 5 Stars

Book #21- The Cobbles- Read a Historical Romance Not Set in London

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