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This book (and review) may not be suitable for younger audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the following review is my honest opinion.

Cassi has been alone in the world since her husband and child died a year ago. So, when a cowboy named Johnny saunters up to her doorstep, she doesn’t greet him with open arms. No, because that’s not what you do when you’re a woman alone in the Wild West. You grab all your guns and point them at the fella. That’s exactly what Cassi does–until she sees his face and falls in lust at first sight.

Johnny only wanted to find shelter for the night. He learns Cassi is a city girl determinedly struggling on her own. And struggling is right. She’s barely got her next meal planned out. Johnny can’t bear to tear himself away. He promises himself he’s gone as soon as he provisions her for the winter.

The delay costs him everything. The sheriff shows up hunting Johnny, who skipped town after murdering his own wife. Cassi’s not sure what to believe. Johnny prepares to go on the run as a fugitive and Cassi must make a hard decision fast: stay alive or stay with the man who makes her feel alive.

This summary was written by me. For the author’s own summary of her book, check out her book’s purchase page.

The Quills: 3/10

Johnny had become calm but he could smell Cassi’s fear hanging in the air. He hoped the posse would somehow miss it. Dogs often attack at the merest scent of fear. These two-legged dogs were no different.

-Diedra Eby, Like a Candle to the Sun

Like a Candle to the Sun was very recently self-published and you can find it on Amazon via the link above.

This book was pitched to me as a historical western romance, however for the first third of the book, I thought it was erotica. Seriously, I was very close to putting the book down and pointing, with a scowl, at my “no erotica” sign. (To clarify, if the book’s main conflict is based on sex, it’s erotica. If the conflict is based on anything else, and it’s served with sex on the side, it’s not erotica.) I’m not against sex, but books based on sex seem a little pointless to me. I’m always on the sidelines complaining, “Either have sex or don’t. The stakes aren’t exactly high.” But I digress.

The narrative is told in an incomplete third person multiple from every character that matters to the plot. Even the dead one. I say incomplete because sometimes the POV character is psychic and inexplicably knows what the other characters are thinking. At times, the narrative becomes distant, telling the story with a movie voice-over feeling rather than showing it.

The tone at the beginning is appropriately depressing. Nice. There does happen to be quite a graphic childbirth scene, so skip the preface if those make you queasy. You’re not missing much; the preface isn’t essential to the story anyway. Also, it’s not correctly labelled. In fiction, a preface would usually be the author’s note on some history of the book or maybe how they went about writing it, where they got their research etc. For example, you could say in a preface, “The Cripple Creek gold rush in the 1890’s was the last of Colorado’s gold rushes and other facts, blah blah blah.” The preface included in this book is more correctly labelled a prologue. Yes, it does matter. A lot of people skip prefaces. People skip prologues too, but less often.

The descriptions are somewhat purple. Yes, I said it: purple prose. At the beginning, it seems as though every single thing has an adjective or adverb attached to it. In addition, there are things that are repeated over and over again. At first, they felt like (not so) subtly dropped hints. Then, after the third repetition, it felt like something prodding me in the eye. Again and again.

To my surprise, after the slow opening, it becomes really, really fast, and suddenly people are having sex. For some reason, after the scene that is both the emotional and action-based climax, there is a long, drawn-out conclusion section (1/5th of the book) that kills the emotional peak and dampens the effect of the climax.

The world building is decent. Then again, the world is composed of a cabin, some trees, and a town. I don’t actually know what the town looks like, but I’m pretty sure I can see the trees.

The author uses a lot of ye olde terminology to bring the old western times to the book and it works, but it can be disconcerting. The terminology isn’t italicised, so when I first read the word posse, I imagined a high school diva and her clique of mean girls. Fortunately, I acknowledge that I’m an ignorant schmuck and keep Google close at hand.

Only the protagonist pair are characterised. The rest are caricatures. Very bad ones. Remember when I said the Heist Society mafia guys were bad? Well, these bad guys are standing in the town square at high noon, pistols a-blazing, shouting at the top of their lungs, “I’m eeeeeeeevil!” They only briefly show that they are more than pure, flat, one-dimensional evil. And it doesn’t work. In a book for younger audiences, for kids who’ve barely graduated from cartoon bad guys, it passes. In a book clearly written for adults, these guys absolutely fail.

I confirmed with the author that this is a final, released copy of the novel and not an advanced reading copy. However, it is still in dire need of a copyeditor. After the third mistake I spotted, I began using my PDF reader’s comment tool to keep track. I spotted over 25 mistakes during my casual read. If I was reading carefully with my editing hat on, there would have been even more. They aren’t even hard to fix, but the simple typos, mistaken homonyms and incorrect verb tenses really detract from the book.

There’s also a problem with consistency. I had to stop and think, “Was she told this? Was it that colour before? Wasn’t he blonde?” Little things like the characters changing hair and eye colours and inconsistent formatting may seem inconsequential, but it does show carelessness.

The Roses: 2/10

To me, this isn’t a published book. It’s a first or second draft. It’s oddly paced, overwritten, and filled with carelessness.

The characters’ decisions and thought processes totally don’t make sense to me. For example, Cassi goes from “sob, my hubby and baby are dead” to “this guy might rape me” to “this guy is pretty hot, I’m totally turned on”. No, not over several scenes. This was all in the scene during which she first meets Johnny.

I don’t like characters that are only described by appearance. Johnny was described as manly or masculine no less than 7 times. After a certain point, I began thinking, “Honey, I don’t care how much manlier he is than my K-pop boys; he doesn’t have the eyeliner.”

Yes, there is sizzle on the page. But there’s very little emotional content, making that sizzle barely better than porn. At that point, I’d rather watch 50 Shades; at least that comes with Jamie Dornan.

This book was almost a DNF. However, I don’t like not finishing things once started so I kept at it. Plus, there was actually a section in the middle I enjoyed. It got washed away into the madness too soon so I kept at it, waiting for the book to get better but it didn’t.

Conclusion:

Sex does not a romance make. This book lacks the basics and is poorly written and/or edited. It may appeal to erotica readers, but to me it needs to go back to the drawing board. Or rather, the editing board.

Was I too picky about the little things? Let me know in the comments below.

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