09 February 2014

Pieces of Sky (Kaki Warner)

I really thought I'd enjoy Pieces of Sky. It came recommended: heck, it won the RITA for Best First Book the year it came out! Warner's writing is lovely, especially her descriptions, and the setting (New Mexico Territory in 1869) is the good kind of unusual; but while I did finish it; I ultimately couldn't like it.

I should've listened to my gut and put this aside on page 8, when I found out that the heroine, Jessica Thornton, was pregnant after being raped by her brother-in-law. Her situation is certainly unique among the romances I've read, and could be properly dealt with--after all, rape victims obviously deserve happy endings and loving relationships. But, augh, Warner comes sooooo close to writing a hero (New Mexico Territory rancher Brady Wilkins) who provides Jessica with the patience and gentleness and lack of judgment she needs...and then, less than a year after the attack, he gets mad at her when she tenses up at the prospect of sex, because he's been nothing but kind to her. DUDE. YOU DO NOT GET TO DECIDE WHEN SHE'S READY, AND KINDNESS WILL NOT FIX TRAUMA. They do eventually sleep together, of course, after she decides he's right, and OH LOOK AT THAT SHE'S FINE NOW. Gross.

Brady also has a streak of bloodthirstiness to him that's unsettling. There's a whole revenge plot wherein Sancho Ramirez, the madman responsible for Brady's father's death--the culmination of a long-standing feud begun when the RosaRoja ranch, originally owned by the Spanish-descended Ramirez family, was given to Jacob Wilkins after the Mexican War. Sancho is cartoonishly, over-the-top evil: he sets fire to things! he fantasizes about raping his sister! And while the usual revenge narrative goes something like "character wants revenge, character gets revenge, character discovers revenge is kinda hollow," here Brady gets revenge and the narrative is essentially "WOO-HOO GREAT JOB BUDDY" while he leaves Sancho's corpse to rot where he fell.

So, yeah. Despite glimmers of promise--I like that Brady has a mustache, and that he's actually got legit reasons for being super buff, unlike the usual "duke who's never done manual labor has a six-pack" trope--I couldn't embrace the hero as a character. And without that, there's just no fulfillment to the romance.

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