Romance has never been my favourite genre as a writer and reader. I struggle writing it and I struggle reading it, especially when heaving chests are involved. But sometimes a certain book can completely change your perspective. And that’s what we, at Paper, Words, and Coffee, call the beauty of reading and writing. And that’s what happened to me after I read Tess LeSue’s most recent novel Bound for Eden. And as the main character Alexandra says, oh glory…
I was first introduced to this novel at university when my lecturer asked us to come to her book launch (and funnily enough that’s how I met the other contributor to Paper, Words and, Coffee. But that’s a story for another time). Alas! It was Bound for Eden. The funny thing is before I even knew that my lecturer was a romance-writing fiend she had spent weeks teaching us how to write romance. And me, being my naïve self, thought that romance would be ‘so easy! I mean it’s just about two people falling in love.’ I’m sure every romance writer would of wanted to permanently shun me if they had heard me. But after my lecturers intense teaching I had a new found respect for romance writers and that respect has only been heightened after I turned the final page on Bound for Eden. Now, into the nitty gritty (spoiler free) review.
Set in 1843, the novel follows Alexandra Barratt and her two siblings Victoria and Adam as they try to escape the ever-tightening grip of Gideon Grady and the rest of the Grady brothers. Alex and her siblings can’t get away from Grady Point fast enough and end up finding their way to Independence, Missouri with a stolen fortune. The twist is that Alex must dress as a boy to keep a low profile from the town and from the Grady brothers. This element really reminded me of Shakespeare in Love but LeSue managed to give the narrative it’s own personal flair. By Alex dressing as a boy the theme of deception is interwoven into the overall narrative as Alex, Victoria and Adam all desperately try to conceal Alex’s identity. And that’s where the irresistible Luke Slater makes his appearance.
With the constant fear of Gideon Grady and his obsessed brother Silas weighing on Alex she joins a wagon train heading West to Oregon, captained by none other than Luke Slater. Accompanied by her siblings and an array of interesting characters Alex takes up the role of the ‘ragtag boy’ and manages to become Luke’s right hand man. And there in lies the constant struggle that we see Alex experience throughout the novel. Not long after leaving Independence it becomes quite clear that Alex has developed feelings far beyond friendship. And while Alex struggles working for a man whom she loves, Luke can’t seem to forget the mysterious woman he left in Independence, with her stormy eyes that oddly resemble Alex’s, he just can’t shake the feeling that the woman he met in Dolly’s whore house is the one. The journey to Oregon is filled with jealously, love, sex, friendship and death but it’s a journey not quite like any other.
One of the most important things I learnt from that lecturer (also the author) is that writing is all about balancing familiarity with something new. And this is something that is evident in Bound for Eden. The novel carries the same characteristics of a romance but it also adds elements that are actually quite surprising. In regards to the sex scenes, they’re detailed but are not frequent. Which is something that I really enjoyed. It gave the story more, it wasn’t just about sex and passion, which allowed for the story to develop into something greater than your average romance.
Overall, this story surprised me beyond belief. To the point where I couldn’t put it down EVER! It was a refreshing read and opened me up to reading more romance. If you’re a lover of romances set against a Southern landscape, filled with tension and passion then Bound for Eden is the book for you. And even if you were like me, someone who cringed at anything intimate then this book is a great stepping stone to opening your mind to other genres. So my advice would be, give it a go and be surprised by how gripping and entertaining the story is.