Valley of the Wolf by Kay Royalty is the story of Ruth, owner of a ranch, and Hannah, married to Josh (whose profession seems to be playing cards and drinking) who just arrived in town. The story evolves around those two women falling in love with each other while having to deal with the constant menace that Josh represents. The premise is simple but attracted me by being placed in a western setting. I am unfamiliar with that period in the USA and wanted something different than my usual readings, so this novel was perfect by being romance and western. That is definitely not a mix you find in my bookshelves.
The start of the novel offers a very beautiful and intriguing scenery with a horse racing against a train. This introduction caught my attention very rapidly and I was eager to learn more about the characters. However once this introduction is over, the writing becomes a bit shaky and put me off for a while. It seems that the author wants to give the reader as much information as possible from all points of view. Sadly the changes of point of view happen too fast and make the story hard to follow. You never stay with a character long enough to get used to its voice that you are already shifting to another one. But, once the exposition phase is over, the novel finds a more stable pace and we can follow the characters more easily, enjoying their story.
The love story between the two girls feels a bit forced at times. They fall in love at first glance (which I didn’t mind) but the way their feelings are described lack in subtlety, especially from Ruth who is supposed to have no idea what is happening to her. I would have liked to see her character struggle a bit more with herself. For example, after their first kiss she seems upset but very quickly she is not anymore and falls into the arms of Hannah, fully accepting her love for her and not questioning anything anymore. I guess the proximity of Jed and Jodie (a gay couple) and the exclusion of any other people around them helped Ruth not to question anything but it did seem a bit strange that almost no thoughts of doubts appeared in her mind.
I was also a bit saddened by the island the ranch provided. The characters rarely go into town and consequently the western aspect of the novel is not really exploited. Though the isolation of Ruth and Hannah with Jed and Jodie provides some really sweet « family » moments between the four of them.
The constant danger that Josh provides to the story is a good idea as it brings some action, but it is too easy to guess when and how he is going to act. He is the bad guy and that’s it. He seems to only be used as a plot device.
All in all it is not a bad read but the novel could gain in subtlety in its narration to make the actions and feelings of the various characters less obvious. The lack of any suspense whatsoever kept putting me off. As a result of this lack of depth I didn’t enjoy the novel as much as I expected to and I know it’s not going to end up in my « to reread » pile of books.
If you are looking for a light, quick and easy read about two girls falling in love in a vague western background – with a bonus of gay cowboys – this might be the book you’re looking for. Otherwise I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to you.