TBR Challenge Review – Frontier Woman by Joan Johnston
FRONTIER WOMAN by Joan Johnston captured my reader’s soul with enthralling characters full of life, crushed it with the reality of history, and mended it with the sweetness of love that endures it all. I forgot how much I missed western historical romance written in the 1980s, until Wendy’s TBR Challenge 2016 for “Kicking it Old School” in August brought this wonderful book from the depths of my shelves.
Why was it in Dorine’s TBR? I was introduced to the main character, Cricket, in the first book I read by Joan Johnston, TEXAS BRIDE. I knew then that I needed the SISTERS OF THE LONE STAR trilogy and immediately bought all three. After four years of the trilogy sitting on my shelves, while I hunted for historical western romances I crave among current releases, I now realize I had the perfect book squirreled away, waiting to be found.
Creighton “Cricket” Stewart is very much her father’s brat and isn’t afraid to act on her gut instincts. Rip Stewart wanted sons but he had daughters instead, so he raised them to be as tough and obedient as his sons were in his dreams. It will take a tough man to tame a woman who has wolves as her protectors and can fight like a man.
Texas Ranger Jarrett Creed was taken by the Comanche when he was young. Raised as a Comanche warrior, he never forgot the wife and child he left behind when his father forced him to return to the white man’s world. Now his Comanche knowledge is needed at Rip Stewart’s Texas cotton plantation where Jarrett has a secret secondary assignment.
At the very beginning, I found it easy to guess that the only man capable of handling Cricket is Jarrett. It does take some time for Jarrett to acknowledge his love for Cricket, but their mutual sparring and Cricket’s resistance is half the fun. Cricket is an unusual female lead who is always doing the unexpected, so her antics are pure entertainment.
On the other hand, Cricket’s character transformation is one of the most heart wrenching and believable characterizations I’ve ever read. At first, I wasn’t sure if she was all bravado and no backbone, but I never guessed she would rip my heart out on her journey. It’s not hard to guess why Cricket’s descendants carry on in Joan Johnston’s books. I want to know what happens in her future.
I loved that Cricket and Jarrett’s relationship is complicated and evolves reasonably, based on what they face together. It’s far from easy, which may make the reader squirm right along with them.
As with most historical romance books written in the 1980s, purple prose is used in the love scenes but it’s not overdone. I found it rather comforting to be without explicit detail, and to be back in the style that introduced me to romance books. There are some blatant one sentence head hops that aren’t done in romance today, but they weren’t frequent enough to stall my reading.
As a forewarning, this novel does contain a gang rape scene of ghastly proportions. This scene is crucial to the plot and character development, so even though it will make readers uncomfortable for many reasons, it’s pivotal and necessary. Don’t let that stop you from reading this book full of hope and healing.
FRONTIER WOMAN is written so that every detail is nurtured with care. This novel is not overly descriptive like many I remember during this publishing time period. It’s richly written, with nothing left out, but it reads smoothly with anticipation. With a complicated plot, adventure, anger, sorrow, and a love that can endure and enrich it all, FRONTIER WOMAN is the perfect story for “Kicking it Old School”. That’s because Joan Johnston writes a historical story that easily stands the test of time.
I can’t wait to read Cricket’s sisters’ stories – COMANCHE WOMAN and TEXAS WOMAN are in my print pile waiting for me. One of the best examples of historical western romance as it should be written, FRONTIER WOMAN is highly recommended as one of my favorites.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Print book purchased.
Frontier Woman by Joan Johnston
Series: Sisters of the Lone Star, Book 1
Category: Historical Western Romance
Publisher: Dell Publishing (August 7, 2001 – originally published in 1988)
5 out of 5 Stars, Recommended Read
Books 2 and 3 of the SISTERS OF THE LONE STAR trilogy. Click on the covers to get your copies.
What do you have languishing in your TBR pile that begs to be read?
August 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm
I fully got hooked on romance in 1999, which is right around the time that historical westerns took a downturn. I spent a lot of time in used bookstores hunting up western backlists for authors who were suddenly writing Regencies.
But Johnston was one I never glommed on to – and this one sounds good. I read one of her more recent books a couple years ago and liked it (but didn’t love it). But enough promise to intrigue for this older title. Great review – thanks!
August 22, 2016 at 2:31 pm
Awesome! I’m glad I fed your TBR, Wendy. Let me know what you think of it, if you get a chance to try it. I’ve read a lot of historicals since the 1970s, preferring westerns and gothics, but I didn’t find Johnston until 2012. I actually enjoyed this one more than the 3 books I read in her Mail-Order Brides series. I’ve re-read a few of my favorites published from the 70s through the late 80s by other authors and they didn’t hold up as well as FRONTIER WOMAN. I think this one represents what I remember loving about historical westerns.