A Man of His Word, by Sarah M. Anderson
A category length romance (scarcely 187 pages) published under Harlequin’s Desire imprint, A Man of His Word is Ms Anderson’s print debut and (from what I gather) the first in the Lawyers in Love trilogy, with the next two titles released in July and September.
My copy comes directly from the author, via a giveaway at Novel Thoughts right around the release date. Life being what it is and reading/reviewing mojo in the state is was, I only read this book a couple of weeks ago—and just now am I writing the review.¹
Confession number one: I can’t read the heroine’s name without giggling. Yes, I know, I suck and I’m mean, but there you have it: an acquaintance has a 14 year old teacup Yorkie named Rosebud. So, after giggling a few times in a row where laughter really wasn’t warranted, I mentally changed her name to Rose—and the book flowed so much better for me!
Here is what the blurb² tells us about the story:
A Woman With a Gun
Dan Armstrong can’t tell if the figure in the trees is a ghost, an Indian princess, or a hallucination—until she takes a shot at him and disappears without a trace. With only the bullet hole in his hat as proof, he starts looking around for a beautiful woman with a grudge. Rosebud Donnelly fits the bill. She’s beautiful, she’s an Indian, and she’s the tribal lawyer suing his family over water rights. But does she really want him dead? There’s only one way to find out. As he gets closer to Rosebud, Dan can’t tell which is in more danger—his head or his heart.
A Man Worth Fighting For³
Attorney Rosebud Donnelly has a case to win. And she never lets anyone see her sweat. But her first meeting with Dan Armstrong doesn’t go according to script. No one warned her that the COO of the company she’s fighting would be so…manly.
From his storm-colored eyes to his well-worn boots, Dan is an honest-to-goodness cowboy. But is he honest? Her yearning for the Texas tycoon goes against reason, against family loyalty, against everything she thought she believed in. And yet, in Dan’s strong arms,4 Rosebud feels she might be ready to risk everything for one more kiss…
Confession number two: I was highly doubtful I would be able to suspend disbelief during that first sighting scene—seriously, an Indian princess? The good news is that not only did I buy the setup, but it serves first as wonderful motivator for Dan to figure out Rosebud, and later, as a running private joke between them.
Despite the fact that A Man of His Word often feels like a parallel reality fantasy—the danger never feels too dangerous, so to speak, and the main characters adhere more closely than is usually my preference to the stereotypical hero and heroine—I quite enjoyed the novel.
Dan is, indeed, a man of his word—and he’s also a loving son, a fair boss and employer, and honest almost to a fault. We are told that he consistently outsmarts and outmaneuvers his business rivals and, whenever ending an affair, remains in good terms with his former lovers. Such a character could be rather boring and tiresome if it weren’t for the writing itself, which makes Dan much more human and attractive than my pithy summation would lead you to believe.
And then we have our heroine.
Rosebud can also be described as pretty much stock category heroine: poor, honest, hard working and devoted to her family (and her tribe) to the point of subsuming her personal life to the goals of her people (translated, she’s a lawyer because the Lakotas of the reservation need lawyers and she’s smart enough to become one). Ms Anderson manages to give flesh Rosebud out and make her appealing on her own right—while there is plenty of misery in her past, there is very little “woe is me.”
Then there is the setting—and here I don’t mean the countryside, but the cultural and socio-economic setting. We see the realities of racial tension, bigotry and discrimination in South Dakota through Dan’s eyes. Mind you, I have no idea how realistic Ms Anderson’s portrayal of these is, but I like that while there is enough to give weight to Rosebud’s reactions to Dan and to his uncle Cecil—the villain of the piece—it doesn’t become a crusade. There is a very, very light layer of Native American as…well, better (in the sense of goodness) throughout the book, but it’s balanced by some manipulation by Rosebud’s aunt Emily. Furthermore, the realities of life in Native American reservations, from poverty to alcoholism, are not prettied up in favor of some fictional mysticism.
There were many things in the execution of A Man of His Word that I liked, including several of the secondary characters. There is Cecil’s housekeeper, María, and James Carlson, a federal prosecutor who’s been investigating the South Dakota division of Armstrong Holdings. There is Tom Yellow Bird, a Lakota and FBI agent—also unofficially still investigating the murder of his friend, Rosebud’s late brother Tanner.
If there is a weakness to the characterization, it’s in the villains—both Cecil and his minion, Thrasher. Neither of them twirl their mustache or monologue about their evil plans, but they are just that little bit too evil. And while money is a great motivator, Cecil’s glee over his treatment of Rosebud, as well as his bigotry, are also just a tad exaggerated.
All that said, I really liked seeing Rosebud’s and Dan’s relationship progress from superficial attraction to actual caring. Yes, it happens fast, but it’s believable to me. I really enjoyed the way Cecil’s comeuppance is delivered—and even the baby filled epilogue didn’t annoy me (much).
A Man of His Word gets a 7.50 out of 10.
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¹ Bad contest winner!
² From the author’s website—my copy only has the second half on the back cover (huh?)
³ I’m hearing that song from Mulan in my head now
4 I don’t mean to offend anyone but “Dan’s strong arms”? seriously??? *ahem* sorry.