Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: A Dangerous Passion by E.E. Burke

From the Back Cover:

Can a hero lurk inside the heart of a villain?

Life in a small New England village is too quiet, too ordinary for a free spirit like Lucy Forbes. When her father lands a job out West, she packs her books and her dreams and eagerly sets off to pursue the kind of grand adventures she longs to experience and write about. Yet the moment she steps off a train in Kansas, she's thrust into the gritty reality of an untamed frontier—and into the arms of a scoundrel.

Henry Stevens, the ruthless railroad executive her father has been sent to investigate, is as passionate as he is ambitious. Brave and charming, as well as clever, and possessed of a sharp wit. He is, in fact, the most fascinating man Lucy has ever met. However, his opponents are vanishing and strangers are shooting at him. Fearing for her father's life, Lucy resolves to unmask the secretive Mr. Stevens and expose a villain. What she doesn’t expect to find is a hero. 

My Thoughts:

This is a hard book for me to rate because there were things about it that I loved, and things that I didn't. I loved the idea of a hero who seems like a villain at first, but once you get to know him and peel the layers away, you realize that all of his questionable actions actually had good intentions behind them, and that the exaggeration of his reputation has been perpetuated by his enemies and cultivated by the hero himself as a front for the lonely and chivalrous man he really is.

The story starts out with plenty of excitement: a shootout at the train depot just as Lucy Forbes arrives in Parsons, Kansas. The man who saves the day turns out to be none other than Henry Stevens, manager of the Katy Railroad, the man her father has been sent to investigate for wrong-doing on behalf of the railroad board. Henry's reputation precedes him, and Lucy is dismayed to find that the strong and handsome Henry is nothing like the villain she was prepared to hate on sight. And to Henry, Lucy is a breath of fresh air in a town where beautiful, unmarried ladies of station are in short supply. He quickly vows to make Lucy his, but he first has to overcome her own objections and those of her father, and he has to figure out who is trying to kill him and stop them before they accomplish the task. What follows is an exciting tale of danger, mystery, tragedy, and love. The town of Parsons is brimming with historical ambiance and filled with well-drawn secondary characters. And the tension between Henry and Lucy sizzles.

The best part of this book turned out to be the very reason I was drawn to it in the first place. I absolutely loved the railroad setting. The railroad is central to the story, and because Henry is a hands-on manager who worked his way through the ranks, we get to see him handling all aspects of the business. From laying track to repairs to planning routes and depots and towns, to negotiating land deals and navigating the press and politicians--it was a fascinating environment for a romance, and it made Henry one very capable and commanding hero.

Unfortunately, I was not as enamored of his heroine. For someone who is supposed to be so smart, Lucy sure does some stupid things. While I certainly appreciated her desire to be independent and adventuresome, her stubbornness really grated on me, as did her inability to communicate her feelings to Henry, which led to big misunderstandings and unnecessary heartache that all could have been avoided. But there are a few instances in which she redeems herself, most notably in a thrilling train chase.

And finally, I was not a fan of the epilogue. While I would have loved to have spent some time with Henry and Lucy in their new life together, this was a snapshot of them from the point of view of a relative, and it did nothing for me. I thought it a very odd choice to end the book on, and I would rather have not had it at all.

But all in all, A Dangerous Passion is very well written, and it stands out from the crowd with it's unique and vividly depicted setting. And Henry is quite swoon-worthy! If you're looking for something different in historical romance, this Western railroad adventure could be just the ticket.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars out of 5

This review originally appeared on Romantic Historical Reviews.

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