By: Kelly Eileen Hake
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: April 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 22, 2014
Kelly Eileen Hake conjures up a tasty tale of the wide open range and rustic romance in her latest novel, Plots and Pans.
Tucker Carmichael is set in his ways and determined to carry on the legacy and continued success of the Bar None Ranch. The period is the 1800’s and the setting is cattle farming at its finest on the open ranges of frontier Texas. The story opens with the passing of Bar None Ranch’s patriarch, Simon Culpepper. Once Tucker learns he is one of the heir apparents (Culpepper’s only son, Edward, the other), Tucker hunkers down and embraces his newfound responsibilities. All things considered, he’s succeeding in his new position of authority. However, the one thing Tucker wasn’t ready to accept was the return of Simon’s only daughter Jessalyn. Seven years prior to Simon’s passing, Jessalyn’s father made the difficult decision to ship her off to the finery and tutelage of proper English lady lessons. Difficult as the decision was, after his wife passed, it became clear to Simon that the rough edges and exposure to ranch life was no place to raise his daughter into becoming a proper lady. While Jessalyn may have been a lady by all definitions of the term, one thing Simon overlooked in his decision was the fact that his ‘lady’ was also a natural born cowgirl at heart.
To say the apple cart was turned on its side with the return of Jessalyn is an understatement. Not only does Jessalyn have to cope with the grief of the passing of her father, but she also needs to embrace the notion she has an aunt she never knew existed. Couple these facts with her reintroduction to the overly cantankerous Tucker Carmichael and Jessalyn has her own set of challenges ahead when it comes to re-establishing her rightful place in her Bar None Ranch home. Jessalyn has never been one to back down. Persistent to dig in for the long haul and prove to Carmichael she belongs is perhaps one of her greatest feats yet. Days before the cattle drive that will make or break the destiny of the Ranch’s future, Tucker is presented with a proposal he adamantly refuses to accept. The unfortunate reality for Tucker, however, is he isn’t the only person with the authority to accept or decline such a proposal.
Ms. Hake takes the reader back to a time long before strip malls and fast food restaurants. She patiently paints a tale with an abundance of allure and life on the open range. She secures the backdrop beautifully within the first dozen pages or so and accomplishes reader engagement in so doing. It is easy for the reader to feel as though he or she has entered a good old fashioned western with the right balance of drama, romance and the roughness and hard times long before modern medicines and comforts. She adeptly captures the essence of what it meant to face the consequences of having nothing more than gut instincts and common sense to survive. If I could make one constructive criticism, however, it would be Ms. Hake’s propensity to write too much character thought. It takes away from the flow of the story. I’m not sure if this was intentional or simply Ms. Hake’s writing style, but I found myself purposely reading over the italicized thoughts. Ms. Hake’s scenes are capable, in my opinion, of getting the intent across to the reader without adding affirmation (or clarification) with the added thoughts. They are a distraction. That said, I would read previous (and future) works by Ms. Hake. She is a strong story teller of this plot line and I would encourage her to continue to embrace the ‘Wild West’ as her inspiration. She knows how to spin a great western.
Quill says: Saddle up your pony and ride along the trail of Plots and Pans. It’s a terrific rendition of life and adventure on the wide open range.