Plots and Pans
About This Book
Order dictates Tucker Carmichael s life his orders. On a cattle drive, a moment s hesitation can mean death. The Chisholm Trail is dirty, dangerous, and no place for women. After years at school, Jessalyn Culpepper has come home and is determined to show everyone that a woman can manage everything from cooking to cattle whether they like it or not! Tucker tries to manage his partner s headstrong sister, horrified when she wants to join the cattle drive. But when they need a chuck wagon cook, Jessalyn seems the only solution. Will God stir up love along a trail filled with their Plots and Pans?
This book was well-penned, with an even balance of prose and dialogue to keep the story moving forward. The author wrote with a crisp, distinct voice, and her main characters all had distinct voices, too. The descriptions and metaphors were highly visual and often humorous, and did much to enhance the story. The hero, heroine, and major secondary characters were very well written. The book offered a great insight into life on a cattle ranch, whether acquired by the author through experience or research, and it really brought the story to life.
In terms of spiritual thread, Jessalyn has turned her back on God for what she feels has been a lifetime of unanswered prayers. Desta and Tucker are strong Christians who pray and worship the Lord in their everyday lives and work, and it is their “walking the talk” that impacts Jessalyn’s faith the most. It is a subtle but powerful theme of control and surrender that readers will universally relate to.
This book will appeal to women and young adult readers who love clean, wholesome historical romances featuring a strong-willed, independent heroine. A bit too typical of the Christian market to extend much interest to general market readers, but this book hits a bull’s eye in aiming for its targeted Christian audience. It is an entertaining, stand-alone novel that I would definitely recommend to my Christian family and friends. And the author’s writing was skillful enough that I will be on the lookout for future titles from her.
Some of the minor secondary characters, like Jessalyn’s brother, could have been fleshed out more and used to greater advantage in the story, but story structure & pace is where the book didn’t quite measure up for me. The opening chapters lingered a bit too long on Jessalyn’s time in England, and I felt, given the premise of the book, that too much of the story happened at the ranch instead of on the cattle drive. As a result, the leisurely pace at the outset and steady acceleration through the middle only left room for a short cattle drive, which amounted to a rushed and somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion to the action. Likewise, the only true conflict in the story was the romantic tension between Tucker and Jessalyn. Many seeds that could have ripened into juicy conflict—Edward’s return to find his sister Jessalyn returned to the ranch chief among them—were completely unexplored.
The Texas setting wasn’t wholly unique—a ranching/cattle driving story could be set in any number of Western states in any decade of the mid- to late 1800s—making this story a definite Historical Romance as opposed to Historical Fiction. However, the romantic tension wasn’t fully fleshed out for me, either. Jessalyn and Tucker argued a great deal, mainly about her, what she wore and what she did, but nothing other than stereotypical gender role expectations kept them apart.
Plots and Pans is a pleasant addition to the Christian fiction lover’s summer reading collection. It features strong, relatable characters in a typical Wild West setting that is sure to delight Historical Romance fans of all ages.
Available April 1, 2014 from Shiloh Run