We’re posting a pair of Dueling Reviews where our reviewers have two very different opinions on Texas Star by Deana James. Here is IntrovertReaders’ take.
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Texas-Angel Series#3 Published; #5 Chronogical
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Western Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Upon reading James’s dedication to this book, I knew I was in for a Historical Western Romance–not a historical western Romance.
This was a gritty, shoot-em-up tale of the West. It was a bodice ripper with a kind of sad and fatalistic feel found in Steve McQueen’s Nevada Smith.
If, as a reader, you have a low threshold for kidnapping, rape by the hero, implied incest, or Stockholm syndrome, Texas Star probably won’t be for you.
On the other hand, for me, Deana James’s Texas Star is a riveting, emotional, action-packed novel. It’s an underappreciated gem. Perhaps it’s not a perfect example of a romance but a fascinating character study less deserving of scorn.
This is going to sound pretentious and self-aggrandizing, and yeah, maybe it is. Most contemporary readers aren’t very forgiving of certain harsh elements in fiction–historical romance, especially.
It’s a shame because fiction is fiction, not real life! One misses out on many impactful themes when one views historical fiction through a lens of rigid modern morality.
When we meet Estrella Luisa Garner y Montejo (shouldn’t Mexican/Spanish naming customs dictate her name be Estrella Luisa Montejo de Garner? *shrug*), aka Star Garner, she is at the lowest point a human can exist. Star is wanted in Texas for the murder of Luke Garner, her excrement pig of a husband.
A jury found her guilty of the charges, but before the hangman’s noose could stretch her neck like a goose, her brother, Tomás, broke her out of jail, saving her in the nick of time. With Tomás and his family, she had found temporary refuge on his Mexican estate.
Star has been in shock since long before the book opens. One thing is evident: she doesn’t like herself much.
The Bounty Hunter
Chris Gillard is a sometimes bounty hunter determined to catch the wanted fugitive. He needs money to support his failing ranch. Chris arrives at the Mexican hacienda, posing as a genial fellow interested in purchasing one of their fine Peruvian Pasos.
He accepts their polite hospitality only to kidnap Star in the middle of the night, dragging her across the border into Texas.
A Trek into Texas
As they travel together, the situation dictates they be physically close. Star can’t attempt any resistance when Chris, her kidnapper, thinks she’s trying to make a move on him. He caresses her in return, then takes her lack of resistance as consent. So he initiates sex.
Star is still traumatized from her husband’s violent rapes. Now here is another man who would violate her body. She recalls what she had to do for her husband not to beat her. So Star becomes the more active partner, turning her rape into what Chris truly believes is mutually enjoyable fuck (which says something about his sexual experience!).
Chris is obviously not a woman’s man. He has no clue about them other than they’re suitable for sex. He’s self-centered and not open-minded in the slightest. A disappointing first marriage left him cold and bitter.
Long ago, he had been an optimistic young man who thought the brightest days lay ahead, but no longer.
Unfortunately, Star is assaulted on their travels through the wilderness, not by Chris’s hands but by a gang of outlaws. Star is sodomized in a brutal encounter and, with no one to save herself, does what must be done to save herself. Chris is able to find her and tend to her wounds.
The Captor and His Captive
He’s shocked that her body is covered in scars, proof that she experienced abuse at her husband’s hands. As Chris nurses her, he’s unsure what to think. But still, he and Star continue into Texas.
Chris has a son named Duff, whom he ignores as he tends to his struggling ranch. Star forms a strong bond with little Duff, as Chris has brought her to his ranch, keeping her there until he can collect his bounty.
Again Star throws herself at Chris, hoping that if she gives him good sex, he won’t turn her in.
How low, how desperate must a woman be to turn to her captor for help?
And how low and disgusting is Chris for using her with no intention of setting her free?
Yet strangely, despite this, she and Chris get to know one another, revealing bits of themselves little by little. Shedding off the past, they take in new elements, and a transformation begins.
Matthew Garner, Luke’s father, was the man who paid the bounty on Star’s head. But he doesn’t want her dead. He wants her. Or, more accurately, he wants to use her body to bear a son to replace the one she killed.
The story’s true antagonist is revealed to be Maude, Matthew’s sister. She is shown to be the true mastermind behind the Garner family’s power and wealth, the person responsible for their flourishing ranch. She is a complex character.
I love a great villain, and Maude makes all her scenes fun to experience because I wanted to see her get the best of her brother.
A Final Showdown
As the story evolves, Star breaks out of her insensible state. Her love of horses, her relationship with Duff, her strange connection with Chris, all these things, and more cause her to change into a more confident woman. It’s a fascinating metamorphosis, subtly done but very satisfying.
Star proves she is not as weak as she appeared at the beginning of the book.
But Chris is a flawed man. Even as it seems he is starting to care for her, he turns Star in for the money, handing her over like a lamb to a pack of wolves: the Garner clan.
I don’t hate Chris. He’s not a mustache-twirling villain. Chris is just a man limited by his experiences and multiple disappointments. He’s a failure at many things in life, which can’t be easy on the soul.
Maybe by going back to save Star, he has a chance to rewrite a grave wrong.
But this is Star’s story, not Chris’. Ultimately, it’s a showdown of woman vs. woman, with Star saving Chris’ life.
In the end, Star becomes Chris’ wife, Duff’s mother, and a confident woman, facing the future with no fear.
Texas Star‘s Connections to Other Deana James Books
The connection between the Texas and Gillard series is finally made clear. Chris is the grandson of Mercedes-Maria from Texas Storm and great-grandson of Fancy England-Gillard from Captive Angel. Star–Estrella Montejo–is the daughter of Alejandro “Macpherson” Montejo and the Diamondback from Texas Tempest.
Although the initial sex scenes between Star and Chris are a bit uncomfortable to read because of the emotional disconnect between the two participants, as the book progresses, the sex becomes more emotionally intimate and more passionate.
While not super erotic, they did make my eyes open extra wide at certain moments.
Mark this as a very warm Texas in April or October.
For me, the captive-captor trope and all the conflict that comes with it are fascinating. Can a captive ever honestly give consent? Can the cruel hero re-evaluate his thinking and become a better man?
Although I believe Chris has accomplished that by the end, his development is not as well-shown as Star’s is.
This book was so immersive that I wanted Star to kick Christopher in the nuts and make him see the truth.
I wanted to convince her that she had more value as a person than just being a body for men’s use!
And I exclaimed, “Hell yes!” when Star killed her attacker.
Deana James crafted an excellent, brutal western in Texas Star. I can understand readers’ distaste for the multiple rapes and if they’re repelled by how weak Star seems at the beginning. However, Star is not the same person in the conclusion that she was on the first page.
Ultimately, Star grows to be the woman she was destined to be: a lady of Texas who endures all the harshness of life to survive and thrive because within her is that wonderfully feminine strength that is fortitude.
Final Analysis of Texas Star
I rated Texas Star an A- back when I gave letter grades, or 92 out of 100. It’s still a 5-star read for me.
But don’t let that beautiful Pino cover fool you; this is not a sweet romance.
No, Texas Star is much more than that. I’m grateful that Deana James has gifted romance fiction with Star Garner’s story.
|Rating Report Card|
IN THE SUN’S BLAZE…
Ebon-haired Star Garner was a wanted woman–and Chris Gillard was determined to collect the generous bounty for bringing her in. He caught the lovely fugitive… but then she trapped him–bewitching him with her luscious figure and innocent onyx eyes. Instead of returning her straightaway to the law, the hot-blooded cowboy took her to his ranch. There he tried to have his fill of her, at high noon and at darkest night, but once he tasted her magnolia-petal flesh, it was impossible to sate his unquenchable desire.
BY THE MOON’S GLOW…
Desperate to be free again, Star made love to her captor as if her life depended on it. The beautiful outlaw sacrificed her very soul to please him… until, to her horror, she discovered she craved and needed his raw, masculine force. Still, she knew Chris had his price and he’d turn her in with no regrets. But what she never counted on was his obsession with her–and how he’d pursue the sleek beauty to the ends of the earth to forever to possess his fiery TEXAS STAR.Texas Star by Deana JameS