Today we’re heading into the yee-haw genre of Western historical fiction. I haven’t reviewed much from this sub-genre but what I’ve read, I’ve liked. I was in the mood for some Little House on the Prairie type fun so I started researching “best of” lists on Goodreads. Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell appeared on every list I could find at either the number one spot or close to it so I bought it. Currently out of 6,000 reviews, over half are five stars. People really seem to LOVE this book and with that in mind, I went into it with high expectations. Was I disappointed? Keep reading to find out! This review will have slight spoilers.
Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold is a story of family conflicts set in Colorado in 1885. Anne Wells has embarrassed her rigidly proper family since she was a child with occasional but grievous lapses from ladylike behavior. They blame those lapses for the disgraceful fact that she is a spinster at 28. Cord Bennett, the son of his father’s second marriage to a Cheyenne woman, is more than an embarrassment to his well-to-do family of ranchers and lawyers – they are ashamed and afraid of their black sheep. When Anne and Cord are found alone together, her father’s fury leads to violence. Cord’s family is more than willing to believe that the fault is his. Can Anne and Cord use the freedom of being condemned for sins they didn’t commit to make a life together? Or will their disapproving, interfering families tear them apart?
I enjoyed this book but I wouldn’t say I loved it. It was a solid three yee-haws out of five for me. This is a self published book and that fact was obvious when it came to the editing and pacing. Don’t get me wrong, I love so many self published books and will bend over backwards to support indie authors. However, indie authors often don’t have the resources for editors and that can hinder what might have been an excellent story.
Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold starts off strong with Anne Wells desperately trying to escape her horrible family and a forced marriage. She decides to hide in Cord Bennett’s barn where she falls asleep and is later found by him. They were childhood acquaintances and on friendly terms so he offers to let her clean up in his house. This wouldn’t seem like a big deal but this is the 1800’s and Cord is a half Native American man. Being alone with a man in that time period would have been enough to ruin a reputation but mix in racism and it’s a recipe for disaster. Anne is found there by her father and his cronies. They proceed to beat Anne and Cord almost to death and then force the two to marry each other, at gun point, because they were alone together. Anne’s father allows the forced marriage to happen because he wants to humiliate the couple but he fully plans to have the marriage annulled and for Anne to obey his wishes after being “punished.” When Anne decides to stay with Cord, however, it pushes her racist and controlling father over the edge…
The beginning of this book was a true page turner. The story started off wild and from there, Cord and Anne had to adjust to a marriage that neither of them planned or particularly wanted while dealing with the racist townspeople. I was really into it up until the 30% point and then the pacing issues started. I wouldn’t say the story was boring but it did get bogged down with details that weren’t super interesting. Cord owns a horse ranch and there was A LOT of detailed descriptions of the couple working on the ranch and doing things with the animals. I didn’t hate it but there were a few points that I caught myself skimming because I just wasn’t interested. Cord, in the beginning, barely talks so there wasn’t any cute banter or real meaningful discussions going on between him and Anne. There are reasons why Cord doesn’t talk much but the lack of conversation, or even body language descriptions, made for a less interesting read.
Thankfully, after around the 50% point, things started to pick up again and Cord really developed as a character. I truly did love him and Anne. When I started the book, I was worried that Cord would be portrayed as a stereotypical Native American but thankfully, he wasn’t. He was a well rounded character that had really suffered because of racism. Racism is a heavy and difficult topic but I think O’Connell handled it wonderfully.
Anne was also a fantastic character. She was spunky and the perfect match for broody Cord. Once their relationship actually developed, it was great and I loved how they were together. However, besides Anne and Cord, the other characters were pretty much awful. Cord’s family was so unbelievably dumb. They consistently believed the worst of him even when they had proof to the contrary. They were in the book far more than I liked and I feel that quite a few of the scenes with them could have been edited down or completely removed. I also didn’t care for any of the other characters and that heavily contributed to how I feel about this book.
To sum things up: I loved Anne and Cord but didn’t care for much else. However, O’Connell’s writing was good enough for me to want to read more from her so I’m going to pick up the two sequel novellas to this book. Is Western historical romance something you’d read? Let me know! Thanks for reading and have a great day!