So, I've been reading yet another book club catch-up, Empire of the Summer Moon, which is about Quanah Parker and the Comanche tribe in the Great Plains area during frontier times. In addition to talking about Quanah Parker and the Comanches, it talks about the ways the American settlers were trying to claim land and fight Native Americans, including the Comanches, and therefore it talks about the Texas Rangers, and it all put me really in the mood for a western romance. I don't really know why, as there's pretty much nothing romantic about EotSM. Anyway, I paged through the few western romances I had on my Kindle, pretty much immediately determined that they were all terrible (that's what I get for free, I guess), paged through the library's Overdrive collection and determined that all of those were terrible (and many bore the names of modern country songs, such as "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy") and turned to a Goodreads list of popular western historical romances. Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold was the #1 book on that list, so bit the bullet and bought it. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for (different setting, slightly different time period, etc.) but I figured I was willing to sacrifice specifics in exchange for quality with the general feel of what I was in the mood for.
This book ended up being a very puzzling one for me. Not necessarily in a bad way. It just...was. The story follows Cord (the eyes of gold) and Anne (the eyes of silver). Cord is half Cheyenne, the product of his father's second marriage, and has always been looked down upon for his "savage" ways, because he has a temper. Even his family thinks he's half-wild and pretty much always on the verge of killing someone. Anne is the daughter of a shopkeeper in their town who has run away from her father, who locked her in a room and attempted to starve her into marrying a gross old guy following a separate broken engagement from when she lived with her aunt in Chicago. Cord finds Anne sleeping in his barn and, after her learns what's going on, offers to help her get to a town where she can take a train to Chicago to escape her father. But before they can decide on a course of action, her father shows up with a posse. Anne is beaten and sexually assaulted (though not raped) and Cord is beaten to the verge of death--oh, and the two end up married in a farce of a ceremony. Anne's father leaves her in Cord's yard with instructions to beg her way back into her family's household. But she doesn't; instead, she starts taking care of Cord, nursing him back to health, and the two ultimately agree to stay married, since Anne's reputation is already in tatters anyway, and she's determined to not go back to her father. But Cord doesn't put much stock in the marriage, thinking that Anne is going to up and leave him any day.
I found Cord's family to be the most baffling part of this book, especially in comparison to the rest of the people of Mason. His family believes the very worst things about him, when you would think that they'd be more willing to support him, or at least to look at the other side of the issue. There are some serious issues with communication between the family members here, it's true, but I can't imagine that Cord communicated much better with the people of the town, and once Anne and Cord started showing up there together (proving that he didn't have her tied up in his root cellar) the townsfolk were all much more welcoming and accepting of Anne and Cord's marriage than his own family was. It was a real mind-bender to me. Obviously I expected this couple to face a lot of judgment and prejudice, and they did...it just didn't really come from the sources I would expect. I thought it would come from everyone, or from everyone except Cord's family. (Anne's family is, it's quickly established, basically completely under the thumb of her terrible father, so I didn't expect a lot of help from that quarter, and there wasn't very much until pretty late in the book.) The acceptance of the other people that Anne and Cord knew was also a little confusing, because I kind of find it hard to believe that it would have gone like that. This wasn't some town on the edge of civilization, after all; it was a small town, but still one that was connected and one where reputation obviously mattered, if Anne was so easily "ruined," and yet most of the people accepted the relationship in pretty short order. Not immediately, but very quickly.
And while this book had romantic elements, I don't really feel that it was an out-and-out romance. It was another strange blend; there were some romance moments, but a lot of it was Anne and Cord pretty much just living together, and Anne sassing anyone who gave her a hard time. I liked it, but I'm not sure I'd actually qualify it as a straight-up romance. That said, the romantic elements do get more pronounced in the second half of the book, and I think after that point it started hitting the "feel" I was looking for more. Watching Cord and Anne (re)build relationships with their own families and with their respective in-laws was also nice, if, as mentioned before, a little confusing in how the dynamics worked in the first place. The writing is also of good quality, though there were a few inconsistencies--such as are Frank and Ephraim Cord's half brothers, or his uncles? Both relationships were mentioned, which left me a little befuddled. But despite the befuddling elements of this book, I did like it quite a bit, and I'd definitely be interested in reading something else by this author.
3.5 stars out of 5.