Check another one off the NPR Summer of Love list. Texas Destiny is first in a trilogy about cowboy and rancher brothers living in an as-of-yet uncivilized West Texas. Preciously, they are named Dallas, Houston, and Austin. (“Our parents just named us after wherever they were living at the time,” Houston explains, which doesn’t alleviate my raised eyebrows considering Texas is huge, frequent travel in the Wild West is not something one does for fun in this era, and in the pre-birth control 19th century I’m asked to believe that the Leigh parents were such dedicated nomads that they conveniently only popped one out in each town? Okay.)
This is a pretty simple story and romance, and while I see why it is considered a classic, it’s maybe a bit too elementary for my taste. The protagonists have about 2 dominant personality traits each: Amelia is brave and nurturing; Houston is silent and sensitive. Amelia is a Victim of Circumstance (“The Victim of Circumstance is someone who, usually due to exigencies beyond her control, has dim prospects and has to make her own luck”) and Houston is a Protector (“The Protector is a warrior: probably taciturn, very kind, gentle, and uncommonly stalwart”). While Mrs. Julien has cleverly and eloquently laid out these characters to the T, I feel the archetype should be merely the foundation and not the entire basis of the character. In Texas Destiny, little is done to give new life to these character styles.
Here is their plug-and-play plot: Amelia, having lost home and family after the Civil War, registers in a catalog for mail-order brides and is contacted by Dallas Leigh, a cattle entrepreneur in West Texas and the two of them enter an arrangement. Due to an untimely broken leg, Dallas is unable to retrieve Amelia himself when she arrives at the Fort Worth train station from Georgia, and he sends his brother Houston to collect her. Cue road trip! By horse and wagon, naturally. As one does when they are cooped up with someone of the opposite sex for extended periods of time, Amelia and Houston end up falling in love, though both feel guilty at the thought of betraying Dallas.
If you’ve read a romance before, you can probably guess how it ends. I completely contradict myself with my thoughts on how it ended, because on the one hand, I strongly dislike angst and manufactured drama, but on the other hand, I feel that just like everything else in this story, the resolution was way too simple and tidy. Dallas basically rolls over when Houston and Amelia come clean about their love, despite his main character attributes being ambitious and proud. The previous several chapters had made it abundantly clear that having a son was as high of a priority as growing his business, and after her arrival, Amelia is literally the only woman in town. There is nothing in his characterization to indicate he would be totes cool with just giving her up, but he kinda just shrugs and says “Ok.”
In short, the book was quick, nice, warm, and fuzzy. It’s a very safe and comfortable example of the historical genre, just not very interesting.