oddmonster (oddmonster) wrote in bookish,

Review: Rogue's Valley, by Kathleen Creighton

# 43: Rogue's Valley by Kathleen Creighton:

"Oh, Jason, look! It's like a supermarket!" She whirled, arms spread wide to encompass it all: thickets of wild rose, heavy with orange rose hips; tangles of currant and gooseberry bushes, some with a few overlooked berries still clinging to low-hanging branches. A bird flew up, flushed from cover by her intrusion. A grouse of some kind, or perhaps a partridge, Sandy thought, her mouth watering. If only they could find a way to kill it.

Synopsis: Coltish, dorky girl horse wrangler in Idaho meets surly geologist. Then, just when they're about to get it on, Clan of the Cave Bear happens.

Sandy Stewart likes her life in Silverville, Idaho, population 899. She likes it a lot, from the quiet house she shares with a retired couple, to her friendship with the acerbicly precious barmaid Bert, to her job as Chief Wrangler of the Salmon River Range District. That latter she loves, actually, because it lets her fly over an Edenic unnamed valley in the backcountry where she keeps watch over a herd of wild mustangs--the stallion she's nicknamed Rogue and his brood of mares, as well as four foals, the youngest and wobbliest of which she's nicknamed Rascal. And it's all of this Sandy strives to protect from the arrival of Jason Rivers, a BLM geologist scouting locations for a geothermal plant in Sandy's precious range. At the same time, there is something about Jason and his quite obvious Big Dark Secret that makes Sandy feel kind of excited and dorky all at once...

Let me let you in on a little secret: Sandy's a big dork.

She may be tall and lithe and talented at her job and a helicopter pilot to boot, but she is quite seriously, one of the dorkiest heroines I've ever read about.


She likes Jason. Jason takes time out from brooding about his Big Dark Secret to like her. Things are very confusing. And then--


--they are trapped in the Idaho backcountry (in Sandy's mystery valley! I know! What a coincidence!) and their struggle for survival mirrors that of the herd of wild mustangs, who are also trapped (rockslide. Best deus ex machina EVER).

Now, I'm all for plucky survival tales, and I was willing to give them the fish. Jason Rivers is naturally gifted at fishing, go fig, and produces an unending stream of the things (see what I did there?) while they are there. I think they're there about a week. During that time, they make no mention of fresh water and how they're getting it, knock boots in the hot springs, and Sandy saves Rascal from a mountain lion before going on to kill a grouse with her bra.

It's not a bad book. It's certainly entertaining, I'll give it that much.

My only quibbles were really minor: that it did get all Clan of the Cave Bear with the R&D on the sling-bra prototype and Sandy's miraculous knowledge of local plants, and her Deep Dark Secret (of course they both have one) is truly fucking lame.

Oh and they have completely unprotected sex. Afterwards, Jason has a wee moment where he wibbles about pregnancy, and thinks he felt that spark of new life (because as y'all who've been there can apparently attest, you can feel the sperm headbutt that egg into submission) but there is zero mention of whether he felt the first tender pangs of chlamydia, gonorrhea or AIDS nibbling at his wild mustang.

And the geology/wrangle plot dies scenically halfway through. And the ending's kind of rushed, like OH THANK GOD YOU FOUND US YAY WE ARE IN LOVE ZOMG DON'T FORGET THE HORSES I'M PREGNANT!

I could have used that being dragged out for another couple pages or so.

And yet, I have to say, I enjoyed the book. The horse endangerment was just my speed (ie really really weenie) and I found both protagonists to be really likeable. Especially Sandy, whose dorkiness was very endearing. And I liked Idaho. There's a lot of small-town Idaho in this book and I loved every second of it.

But more than that, the relationship Sandy and Jason forge is one of the few positive models of a het relationship I've seen in books. It makes sense. They both come to it as strong people and they are able to be in it as strong people.

Sandy gives, because that's what a relationship's about. But she still retains her identity, her core, and this is exactly the second het motherhood moment that I've actually liked. She has a daughter! Who she nurses while the horses take a break from being wrangled, because she is Sandy, and she is a wife and a mother and she is damn good at her job, and she is still a dork.

And really, isn't life all about finding someone who loves your inner dork?

Failing that, I think life's about getting stranded in the Idaho backcountry with a girl who can kill a grouse with her underthings.

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