Leaving Whiskey Bend

Dorothy Garlock
2008, American Historical Romance (1890s American West)
Grand Central, $13.99, 284 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446695343

Grade: D
Sensuality: Warm

Reading Leaving Whiskey Bend I was hoping for a solid American Western as a break from the norm. Unfortunately for me, I found an American Western with the most ridiculous characters I think Iíve ever read, or ever want to read.

Hallie Wolcott left her home and parents years ago to travel west alone to start a new life. She found Whiskey Bend, Colorado, a good friend in Pearl Parsons, and a whole lot of trouble. As a result of their friend Mary being nearly beaten to death by an unwanted lover that Pearl also just happens to shoot in the leg, they flee for parts unknown. Though scared and vulnerable, they do pretty well for themselves until they get caught in a violent storm. Yet, while the storm injures Mary more, it also brings salvation in the form of two men.

Eli Morgan escaped Bison City, his oppressive father, and nagging mother only a few days after the murder of his younger brother by joining the army. Until he received a telegram from his uncle telling him that he needed to come home, he wasnít sure if he would ever return to the ranch where he grew up. On his return, he finds his father dead, his mother even more shrewishly hateful than before, and his older brother suffering from a condition that makes him believe heís Abraham Lincoln. Needless to say, heís slightly overwhelmed.

As a storm approaches, Eli and his uncle discover calves are missing from the herd and go in search of them. As the storm gets worse, they find Hallie alone searching the banks of a swollen, rushing river looking for the missing Mary. When Eli finds the desperate Hallie, he feels compelled to help her find her friend, to the point of going into the river after Mary. He then even offers the women refuge in his home until Mary heals. At Eliís home, the women face the bitterness of his mother, the jealously of a women who wantís to hold a special place in Eliís life, and the fear of being hunted by a madman. Through all of this, Eli and Hallie realize how special the other is and a friendship develops that leads to much more.

Other than the two main characters who definitely have their own problems, this is basically a cast of crazies. Hallie is idealist and just a little too good to be true, whereas Eli comes off as selfish and bland, and neither is developed enough to make you sympathetic to his or her situation. Pearl is just a crass, cussing, shooting, meanie, who supposedly is caring. Mary is the abused victim who, other than her river episode, stays unconscious for most of the book. (And I still didnít like her.) Eliís mother is an over the top bitch bordering on evil and the brother is just plain crazy, but he has a good heart and is probably the only sympathetic character in the book. Eliís wannabe girlfriend (again way over the top) personifies jealous, obsessive, insane love and Iím not even going to write anything about her psycho fiancť. Finally, you have Maryís evil ex-lover who is cartoonishly determined to get Mary back at all costs. Seriously, the only character who was believable or likeable was Eliís uncle Hank.

Though itís been many years since Iíve read a Garlock, there was one word she always used that made me see red Ė splittail (oh, how I hate even to type it!). In the years that have passed, I was hoping that it would disappear from her writing. But, my hopes were dashed and I fought a mad desire to throw the book when the word appeared midway through the story. Needless to say, Leaving Whiskey Bend is not the Dorothy Garlock story that will encourage me to read others.

-- Heather Brooks

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