Synopsis: Big John Jacobs left Georgia after the civil war to live in Texas on the failing ranch his uncle left him. John wasn’t afraid of hard work, but survival hinged on getting a railway built nearby to ship cattle. In order to achieve his goal, John proposed a marriage of convenience to Camilla Ellen Colby, the daughter of a railroad tycoon. Ellen soon found out that ranch life wasn’t what she expected… it was better.
Writing Style: The story began wonderfully, full of detail and building anticipation for the success of Big John and Ellen. It wasn’t until the final chapter that the story went from showing to telling. It would have been best to have an epilogue of some years down the line that hinted at what happened, rather than give a brief overview of things.
Cover: The artwork shown is for the compilation of two stories by Diana Palmer, and is much more aesthetically pleasing than the original single title novel (which can be found via a Google search) that is around a decade old.
Setting: The novel takes place in Texas while ranches were being built before towns started popping up. It is the history of what will become known as Jacobsville in some of Diana Palmer’s later novels.
Plot: The story is a much-used idea of a marriage arranged for business reasons, but rather than being set in regency England, it is set in the Wild West. Also, before the pair is wed, they realize that they like each other and actually want to marry. The daily happenings of a growing ranch may have been ordinary if it wasn’t for Ellen and the unusual (for the times) ranch help.
Character: Camilla Ellen Colby makes a splash with her first appearance in the novel. She may be not much to look at, but her personality makes up for it. While Ellen wasn’t cut out to be a northern-bred lady, she is pure Texan. Ellen gains independence with her marriage and soon learns to ride, shoot, run a cattle ranch, and founds a ladies clothing store.
Romance: This marriage of convenience was arranged between the prospective husband and wife, rather than the suitor and father. John wanted to be honest with Ellen, which she appreciated, and they decided that they would mutually benefit from the relationship and had a growing attraction to each other. Before the wedding they became friends, and soon after the wedding they knew they were in love.
Quote: “Please excuse me. I am in the middle of important work.” She lifted her chin and added deliberately, “My father’s dog is having her bath.”
The Verdict: While the ending is a let down, the rest of the story is interesting. It is a good way to learn the beginnings of Jacobsville, which many of Diana’s other novels are set in, should you wish to.