Sean (The Cowboys)
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After almost three years of writing The Fabio Files, I recently have felt a little burned out, like I had gotten myself into a romance-novel rut. I felt like every book I read was awful—the dialogue, the sex scenes, the plots, everything was just terrible. I was bored and desperate for something new. So when I wandered into my local book consignment shop, eagerly scanning the shelves for salvation from bodice-ripper tedium, I oh-so-casually mentioned this column to the store’s owner (who am I kidding, I was knee-deep in shameless self-promotion) and how I was in the market for something “new.” She suggested the Cowboys series by Leigh Greenwood and mentioned that Leigh is a male writer. I had honestly never heard of a male romance writer before, and therefore I was intrigued—and at under three bucks a book, how could I say no?

Sean is set in the Colorado gold fields of 1876. Sean O’Ryan was orphaned as a child and abandoned by the only family he had left, an aunt who passed him over in favor of a career dancing in saloons. Sean was later adopted by a kind couple in Texas and grew up developing an idealized vision of what makes a “lady” and also a rather disparaging view of the kinds of women who make their living working in saloons and dance halls.

Sean is a typical romance hero—handsome and very, very large. He had gained renown among the other miners for his hard work and success in finding gold. After a long day of panning for gold, he goes into the Silken Lady, the nicest saloon in the mining town of Twisted Gulch, and claps eyes on Pearl Belladonna. Pearl is the Twisted Gulch version of Megan Fox—men simply cannot resist her. She is beautiful and talented, but she also carries a secret: she has a daughter, the result of a love affair gone wrong. She is also being blackmailed by a former lover, and it appears that Sean is the only man in Twisted Gulch who can help her.

Sean grapples with his feelings of mistrust of saloon girls while Pearl worries that Sean is like all the other men in town—only interested in one thing. They have to learn to trust each other and help find Pearl’s daughter (who had been kidnapped as a part of the blackmail plot) before it’s too late. Can they acknowledge their feelings of love for one another in the process?

Unfortunately, Sean really wasn’t any different from the other romances I’ve read lately. The dialogue is tense and choppy, comprised of short sentences, all culminating in a period. Seriously, has no one ever heard of other punctuation marks? I couldn’t relate to the characters because there was absolutely no emotion in their voices. Sean O’Ryan and Pearl Belladonna both come across as cold and passionless, something no one wants to see in a romance novel.

The plot felt as if it was stolen from an unaired episode of Bonanza or something, without the soap-opera-esque twists that can help a romance novel come alive. The love scenes were decent, fairly steamy, but not nearly frequent enough. Without the benefit of compelling characters and plot, the reader doesn’t really have any incentive not to skip ahead to the “good parts,” so it’s really disappointing when the good parts aren’t quite so good.

I had very high hopes for Sean; it seemed at first to be the cure for the common romance novel. I hadn’t read many romances set in the American Wild West, nor ones told from a male point of view. You would think that being written by a male author would help set this book apart, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t. It appears that my search for a “cure” for my romance novel boredom continues.

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