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Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman

historical romance review
Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Leslie Pellegrino-Peck
Published by: Dell
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 468
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman


The Book

As I’ve mentioned before, Elaine Coffman‘s Escape Not My Love was not my first venture into romance. It was, however, was my first historical. And for that, I am grateful.

This is a fantastic western romance that took me on an emotional ride.

escape not my love western romance
Escape Not My Love, Elaine Coffman, Dell, 1990, Leslie Pellegrino-Peck cover art

Escape Not My Love, My First Historical Romance

Superficially, Escape Not My Love drew me in from the outset. It had a stunning stepback, designed with a pattern of a woman’s purple and white-flowered gown. The cover opened to reveal the protagonists embracing in a Laura Ashley-designed clinch. (Thank God for that step-back! I first read this as I sat in church, waiting for my turn to enter the confessional and talk to the priest. He didn’t know what kind of trashy book I was reading, and I wasn’t about to volunteer that tidbit. Ha!)

The book quickly drew me in and I instantly fell in love with the genre. I found in historicals a frequent theme of this thrilling battle of the sexes that was lacking from most of the tame Harlequin Romances and modern Temptations I was used to. (I had yet to discover the Presents line).

While hardcore “bodice rippers” no longer dominated the market as they had in years past, in the early 1990’s most heroes in historical romances had not yet been gelded into modern-minded wankers that are so prevalent today. I’m being snarky and don’t mean to offend, but that’s just my no-holds-barred opinion.

If contemporary readers prefer forward-thinking, sensitive gunslingers, Vikings, warriors, noblemen, etc., in their historicals, well as they say: Chacun à ses goûts, n’est-ce pas? 

I prefer my historical heroes to have a rougher edge.

The girl would be more than a job to him. He had known it the moment he’d looked at her face. Was that why her eyes were so wide and round? Because she knew it too? It was ordained and irrevocable. Sometime. Somewhere. Somehow. He would take her to his bed.

The Plot

In this western romance, Jay Culhane is a bounty hunter. His job is to travel deep into Mexico where armed criminals roam and bring home the well-meaning but naïve heroine, Jennifer Baxter, who moved from TX to open a school for underprivileged children. Jennifer–who is the youngest of 11 girls–is used to getting her way.

So you know this book will be one long power play between the pair.

Jay kicks down the door of her little house when he first lays eyes upon her black-haired, violet-eyed (of course!), lingerie-clad body. Lust takes over reason, and he immediately orders Jenny to strip naked at gunpoint and then enjoys the show. Cuz that’s the kind of guy he is.

Jay takes Jennifer on a long, arduous trip back to Texas.

He’s occasionally violent, at times even abusive to Jenny. To prevent her from escaping, he ties her to the back of his horse and makes her walk in the scorching midday sun while he rides comfortably wearing a protective hat. He forces her to cook meals and punishes her with kisses–to which she responds with passion!

Yet he also treats her sores and wounds with gentleness, not to mention ill-hidden guilt. He kills snakes for her when she cries out in terror and unflinchingly murders renegade Bandidos who try to kidnap and rape Jennifer.

My Opinion

When I first read Escape Not My Love, I was twelve years old, and my parents had just divorced, so I had begun to immerse myself in books for escape. It sounds a bit trite to say a romance changed my life–and I won’t be so extreme as to go that far. However, this book definitely influenced me in a profound way.

It gave me something to look forward to and enjoy: hope. The love story between Jay and Jennifer is phenomenal.

Elaine Coffman’s writing is so rich and lyrical. It’s moving. And yes, happy tears form every time I read that sweet ending.

Read the Original Version of This Western Romance

I will mention that if you want to see this western, old-school romance portrayed at its best, read the original edition. I would not recommend the re-issue that came out in 1997. “Jay-lite” isn’t as sexy as the tortured, lone-wolf of the 1990 version.

escape not my love
Escape Not My Love, Elaine Coffman, Ballantine, 1997 re-edited version, cover artist unknown

I dislike that many romance writers think all readers take offense at the “traditionally macho” heroes of old. Today, the worst types of anti-heroes and tortured, abusive man-hoes are accepted in contemporaries, Dark Erotica, New Adults, and lots of paranormals–where anything can happen.

Meanwhile, men who lived 100, 500, or 1,000 years ago have to be represented as ultra-sensitive proto-feminists. The fact that historicals have so many SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guys) type heroes makes me wary of reading modern romances.

Yup, I’m an old fart, what can I say?

Final Analysis of Escape Not, My Love

Nostalgia may have a bit to do with my ratings of older books. Regardless, I’ve read this many times over the years, and for me, Elaine Coffman’s Escape Not My Love holds up.

If you don’t like cruel heroes who treat the heroine nastily from the get-go, keep in mind that a devastating past tormented Jay. It’s his love for Jennifer that teaches him to let go of the old hurts.

The epilogue might have you reaching for your hankies. Or make you smile as the tough-hombre Jay Culhane settles down into married life with children.

I wasn’t the only reader who loved this book. Escape Not My Love (in its original un-PC form) won the 1990 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Western Historical Romance.

Because it was my first historical romance, and one that–to this day–I extremely enjoy, it’s a keeper.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


With hair as dark as sin and a face and a body that were pure heaven, Jennifer Baxter was a woman who knew her own mind and did as she pleased…until she ran off into dangerous territory south of the border. Suddenly she was the captive of a commanding gunslinger sent by her wealthy father to bring her back home. Not about to take orders from any man, she fought the arrogant stranger, struggling to resist his raw masculine virility and recklessly challenging his determination to vanquish her in every way.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Jay Culhane had tracked down outlaw gangs and renegade Indians, but he’d never encountered a prisoner as infuriating as the beautiful schoolteacher Jennifer. From the first time he saw her he swore he would take her to his bed, claim her innocence, and bring her to a woman’s natural fulfillment. But first he had to tame her. From the shimmering desert to a magnificent Texas ranch to the genteel drawing rooms of Savannah, he would pursue her relentlessly, ruled by a fierce passion for a woman who dared him to believe in the redeeming power of love.