Here's a description of the book from Cedar Fort:
Crissa Engleson comes to the town of Willow Springs to start a new life when she attracts the unwanted attention of a miner – and falls in love with a handsome Express rider. Laugh and cry with Crissa as she escapes her past to find love and helps the townspeople along the way.
Brace yourselves—here comes a convoluted review!
So...Willow Springs begins like many sweet historical romances, with a new arrival in town, a gallant hero who protects the heroine from the town "bad boys," and a quick infatuation. Eventually, though, what starts out as typical spirals into a story that left me glued to my Kindle in a mix of fascination and aversion.
The pacing is very well done, and despite the plot elements that bothered me, I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to our "poor" heroine. There are twists I didn't see coming—situations where I thought, "Oh, something will happen before it comes to that." Umm, nope. One thing's for sure: the author wasn't afraid of taking her characters to some pretty outlandish and creepy places!
The book is definitely a romance, but I could see how the author was influenced by Western novels where everything isn't just "sunshine and roses." In other words, the story travels down some dark and desperate paths. And the heroine, well, she doesn't always make choices I'd applaud. The other side of the reading coin is that, while I couldn't put the book down once the story reached a certain point, I also couldn't stop vocalizing my dismay with the characters and some of the terrible choices they make and the odd situations they find themselves in. I smacked my forehead in frustration more than once, I believe...
Willow Springs is a different sort of read than I'd generally pick up. It is "clean," but there is a non-explicit focus on sex (i.e.: nothing described, but there's a preoccupation with the topic, especially with certain characters). The subtle religious aspect is more LDS in nature, just as a point to note. (I've read a couple of the publisher's other fiction books that were in the fantasy genre, so this influence wasn't as obvious in those stories.) There's some violence and a back-story element that particularly bothered me. And the ending—especially compared to the complicated nature of the middle of the book—seemed a little too easily resolved.
While this book wasn't quite my thing, I did appreciate the stronger Western feel, as well as the risks the author took in deviating away from some typical romance scenarios. (Although most of my experience is with inspirational romance, so perhaps general-romance readers might not be as surprised by some of the twists and turns.) It was an engaging read, but for me, it went too far in some areas (both in situations and choices) for my taste.
*With thanks to Cedar Fort for providing me with a PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
About the Author
Born and raised in Utah, Carolyn Steele was introduced to western novels at a very young age by her grandfather, the son of a gold miner. She has been writing technical and marketing communications for most of her adult life. Her nonfiction articles have appeared in numerous national magazines. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Utah. Married and living in Salt Lake City, Utah, Carolyn loves researching obscure history then weaving it into stories. She also enjoys family dinners with her children and grandchildren, photography, travel, golf, reading, and all forms of needlework.