Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Land of Enchantment by Janet Dailey

"Why don't you just admit you're homesick for the excitement of city life and stop trying to kid both of us?" Lije snapped. "I told you even before the subject of marriage was brought up how much this ranch meant to me. I love you, Diana, but I would never give it up, even for you."

Diana had to admit to herself that she had known this. Or had she subconsciously hoped that some day she might be able to persuade him differently?

Diana was a city girl, a glamorous model. She loved the bright lights and sophisticated life that she had been used to for so long. Lije Masters was a rough, tough rancher from New Mexico, a man of the outdoors. But the violent attraction that blazed up between them could not be denied; they met, fell in love, and were married … just like that. But then, inevitably, once the honeymoon rapture was over Diana found herself bored with the life of a housewife in the wilds. She had married in haste; would she now find herself repenting at leisure? Or would Lije tire of her first?

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**Warning: Contains Mild Spoilers**

A good example of how engrossing some of these old Harlequins can still be. Yes, it's a bit dated in some ways, though on the whole this one felt less dated than some of them, perhaps because of the setting, namely, a small ranch where things would probably be done in much the same way today as they were then, and where only the lack of modern technologies dates it. The characters and storyline also suffer somewhat from a fair bit of stereotyping and predictability that is characteristic of this type of book, but everything is given enough individuality to make the characters seem more real, and the situations they find themselves in more believable.

From the beginning we're made aware that Diana isn't the typical model that's mostly obsessed with her looks and with fashions. Instead, it's made clear that she's only working as a model to pay the bills until she can find the right man to fulfill her dreams of being a wife and mother and having a family of her own. The only thing that's a bit off is the way in which she decides on very short acquaintance to jump feet first into marriage with Lije and leave the life she's known behind, because she otherwise seems a fairly practical sort who would normally think her decisions through more carefully, especially such important ones as marriage. And yet, the was her instant attraction to Lije is handled is believable enough for the explanation of "it was love at first sight" to be work. I would have expected her to get more involved with her new home than she does at first, though the fact that she doesn't isn't wholly out of character since she's been taken so completely out of her element that she has all she can do to simply try to take in her new surroundings and try to acclimate and adjust without trying to learn too much about her new way of life all at once. Despite a few instances of jumping to conclusions based on an initial impression, Diana proves to be an intelligent and relatable character, as well as showing on several occasions that she has far more backbone than many romance heroines such as her do.

Lije remains something of a stereotype in many ways throughout the book. Since the story is told from Diana's point of view, we never get to see inside his head much and never get to know him quite as well as we do Diana. He's the taciturn and sometimes gruff cowboy type on the surface, though it's evident almost from the first that there's a lot more to him than that. For one, he's clearly quite intelligent, and has his plans carefully laid toward fulfilling his dreams of bringing the ranch he inherited from his father back to prosperity. Given how intent he is upon his goals, and what he knows he needs to do to achieve them, it's somewhat surprising that he'd change all those carefully made plans so abruptly just to marry Diana immediately rather than waiting. His seeming coldness toward Diana once they've been back at his ranch for a little bit comes as a bit of a surprise given his careful consideration of her up to that point, but still makes sense in the face of his obvious focus on what all needs to be done around the ranch to get it going again. Still, for awhile he seems to be becoming almost indifferent to Diana at times, and certainly is impatient with her ignorance of even the basics of ranch life at others, until the reader is left to wonder if maybe they didn't make a mistake by marrying in such haste after all.

Overall, this book has stood up to the test of time pretty well I think. As I noted at the beginning, it suffers far less from dating than many contemporary books of this sort do given the somewhat timeless nature of the setting. The characters are believable, and intelligent, and it's not hard to end up caring about what happens to them. For those interested in older category romance novels, I'd definitely recommend this one.

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