THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN SPURS - Ann Major
A Perfect 10
Contemporary Romantic Suspense
South Texas, the Golden Spurs Ranch - The Present
With so many women in books and entertainment becoming more and more like superheroes these days, Lizzy Kemble comes as a surprise. She's unsure of herself and uncertain she belongs in a family of such larger than life Texans, no matter how hard she tries to please. Lizzy adores her father, but she always disappoints him for not living up to the renowned and powerful Kemble name. She asked for a doll for her fifth birthday and was given a horse that promptly bit off the tip of a finger. In a family of cowboys and with a twin sister who was figuratively born with boots and spurs, she hates riding. And yet, this platinum-haired first born among all the dark Kimbles is Caesar Kemble's obvious favorite -- which naturally makes her an object of jealousy by others. Crybaby and wimp are favorite epithets, even used by her father as he tries to toughen her up. Can anyone blame her, then, if Lizzy at seventeen falls in love with Cole Knight after he rescues her from atop a runaway horse -- one she had no business riding, but her father insisted? And when Cole comforts her so tenderly and without scorn?
A century and a half ago, the original Caesar Kemble and Horatio Knight were partners of sorts, but after Horatio and his wife were killed in an Indian raid, and the Kembles adopted their daughter, the Knight family's Black Oaks Ranch has been absorbed piece by piece into the Golden Spurs -- through treachery and downright cheating by the Kembles, according to the Knights. Cole Knight is the last of his clan, and he's left with nothing. He'd just buried his father on the day he rescued Lizzy and had ridden out, all fired up with thoughts of revenge and retribution, to confront the Kembles.
The story jumps ahead eleven years. Cole married Lizzy's sister Mia, who bore a daughter a few months before a small aircraft accident took Mia's life and left Cole with no memory of before the crash. Lizzy is attempting to conquer New York on her own without trading on the family name or wealth, which has grown from ranching and oil into an international agribusiness and more. Unfortunately, Lizzy hasn't yet succeeded in her dream of becoming a sophisticated career girl.
Six months later, Lizzy's world falls apart. Her parents are divorcing; she loses her job, and her live-in moves out because she bores him. Too depressed to answer the phone, thus unaware that a stroke sent her father into a deep coma, Lizzy is determined to win Bryce back, but Lizzy's makeover into a seductress works on Cole, instead, when he comes to New York to tell her of Caesar's illness. She returns home to Texas with Cole with very mixed feelings.
Before his stroke, Caesar left instructions that Lizzy was to step into his shoes if anything happened to him. This naturally finds opposition among relatives eager to assume power. Caesar is holding his own, but with his sudden death following other problems besetting the conglomerate, it becomes apparent that someone inside will stop at nothing to take control. Cole is not above suspicion, either.
THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN SPURS is exceptionally strong in grasping attention and involving emotions. Whereas, at first, neither Lizzy nor Cole is a to-die-for protagonist, their imperfections, their basic honesty, and their authenticity make them likable. One may wish at times that Lizzy would get a little backbone, rise quickly to the challenges facing her and take hold, but given the way she was raised to be something she was not, either by nature or inclination, and certainly not with sensitivity, it would be too much to expect in real life. And these people are real. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Lizzy attains that heroic status in the end.
The plot of THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN SPURS is crafted for maximum suspense. Large blocks of it are apportioned to the points of view of the main characters -- something I like a lot -- with Lizzy rightly getting the most space. Some of the minor characters are well rounded; others not so much. Two will star in Ms. Major's next Golden Spurs novel. I'm eager for it to come out, as this one was definitely an all-nighter for me.
I have had a long run of excellent books to review this year and may have used up all my superlatives, so I thought I'd give THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN SPURS a Perfect 10. Then I thought I wouldn't, because Lizzy and Cole aren't superheroes. Isn't that dumb? THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN SPURS is a super book and merits a 10 for its freshness and because it made me stop and think outside the box of the expected.