Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'For the Record' by Regina Jennings


Jennings Offers Another Delightful Blend of History and Romance. 

Betsy Huckabee might be a small-town girl, but she has big-city dreams. Writing for her uncle's newspaper will never lead to independence, and the bigger newspapers don't seem interested in the Hart County news. Trying a new approach, Betsy pens a romanticized serial for the ladies' pages, and the new deputy provides the perfect inspiration for her submissions. She'd be horrified if he read her breathless descriptions of him, but these articles are for a newspaper far away. No one in Pine Gap will ever know. 
Deputy Joel Puckett didn't want to leave Texas, but this job in tiny Pine Gap is his only shot at keeping his badge. With masked marauders riding every night, his skills and patience are tested, but even more challenging is the sassy journalist lady chasing him.

Genre: Historical Romance, Comedy Romance.

It's the third in a series, and the main female character, Betsy Huckabee, has been stealing scenes in other people's stories since she was a small girl. She was such a lovable little bombshell in A Most Inconvenient Marriage, I thought Regina Jennings set herself a hard task to make the grown up Betsy as appealing as her younger version. She is still original and independent, but while it came across so gutsy and cute for a little girl, it's a different manner for a woman in her twenties. I think Jennings managed okay, but maybe only just. The continuation of her wild child attributes keeps Betsy in character, but it's not quite the same. 'I come and go at will, where I will, and when I will.'

Betsy is a self-taught writer, with the ambition to write for a big enough paper to make her independent. She decides to offer a serial for ladies about a dashing, heroic deputy sheriff, and decides to use newcomer Joel for her inspiration, not that she ever intends to tell him. She thinks he's as 'handsome as Adam on the first day of creation' but works hard to convince everyone that she thinks him 'plain as rye bread'. That's just part of the ruse. When she tags after him for story fodder, she has to contend with his grouchy attitude and tendency to keep saying unquotable things.

Joel's own part of the story offers some interesting insights. He's a patriotic Texan who expects his job to be straightforward in Pine Gap, Missouri. But the townspeople, with all their complicated and ancient family connections, teach him to understand that there are unique layers of black and white in their pasts, and nothing is ever clear cut. At the outset, he's surprised when they don't give him the respect due to a lawman, but treat him more like a pesky extra who must be skirted around, so their lives can continue as they always have.

Joel eventually realises that trying to uphold the law in the traditional way has limitations, when there are subtleties and undercurrents which have been in place for generations. I thought it was quite amusing when Betsy, much as she admires him, decides it's probably wiser to go with the traditional, self-selected chieftains rather than the new deputy, since they'll probably be more effective. I've got to say, these hillbilly types of cultures are quite interesting to read about.

There's a mystery to solve, as serious crimes are being committed and everyone disagrees about who the baddie is most likely to be. (I found it not that hard to figure out.) There's also quite a bit of awkward romantic comedy, especially since Joel has vowed to steer clear of women, because one in particular hurt his career and reputation. He grows to believe Betsy is way different, but how will he react when he discovers his easily recognisable magazine counterpart? All in all, it's the lighthearted continuation with a few deeper themes you'd expect for this series. I think the first novel in this series is still the best.

Thanks to Bethany House and Net Galley for my review copy.

3 stars

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