Book: Angel in the Saloon by Jeanne Marie Leach
Ridiculously simplified summary: Amelia, pious young woman, recently orphaned, and blind, comes to an Glory Gulch, an 1880s Old West town, to live with her only relative, her aunt Corrin, keeper of the town's saloon. Her aunt's old flames both take a liking to her….
Content: More violence than I expected, and at least one icky line about bodily functions ("The small chamber pot was not going to be a useful tool in this situation...").
As far as the Christianity, I didn't see anything to object to, but it definitely felt like an indie book for at least a couple reasons. First, the heroine is being wooed by two men roughly twice her age (certainly the right age to date her deceased mother!). That didn't seem like something I'd see in the mainstream market. And at one point the book criticizes Christians who conform to the rules to the point of going too far--something I feel might not be in many mainstream Christian books, for fear of offending. (Never mind that the heroine lives in a saloon!)
Compelling: 6 out of 10. There were some slow points and some portions that were narrated when they could've been handled by a brief scene or a brief sentence. But overall it wasn't difficult to get through. Parts of the story cross the line into melodrama, though for a Western that's perhaps not entirely inappropriate.
Characters: 4 out of 10. Amelia, the blind heroine, was basically perfect in every way except for her inability to see. Perfectly beautiful, perfect at playing the piano, perfectly gentle and kind, superhumanly forgiving, only very rarely becoming angry, and so forth. Other characters call her "Angel." It wasn't much fun to read about her. Her beaus were such good friends to each other that I sometimes had a bit of trouble differentiating between them, though I'm not certain what could have been done differently.
The book starts out from the point of view Amelia's aunt, Corrin, a woman spurned, old maid, now owner of a "decent" saloon. I wish that would've continued. She is a much more interesting character, and I would have honestly preferred the book to be about her. Though she must be in her 40s, I'd consider reading a romance about her if it started where this book leaves off. Or just a regular book about her. Though this is first in the "Brides of Glory Gulch" series, it doesn't appear that Leach has written about her again, unless she's just a recurring character.
Writing/editing: 5 out of 10. Quite a few typos--nothing catastrophic, but occasionally distracting. (As an example, early on, a character--who I don't believe has an odd accent--says "But you haven't told us much abort yourself, Miss Jackson.")
Plausibility/believability: 3 out of 5. I never felt really transported to the Old West, per se; more like a movie Western. (That said, writing a romance with the historical setting as window dressing is a perfectly acceptable option.)
I felt like they said Corrin had the only saloon--did I read that wrong?--but most Old West towns had numerous saloons, as far as I know. Corrin ran hers without vices (no loose women, etc.). I can't imagine why another, more accommodating, saloon wouldn't have sprung up. Interestingly, Corrin's closest friends are two men who evidently don't want anything from her but friendship.
Overall I mostly "bought" Amelia as blind--it was handled fairly well early on--but occasionally portions in her point of view would mention something she couldn't see. At one point Amelia goes to the outhouse because she's feeling a bout of "dysentery" coming on, but seems none the worse for wear after another incident occurs outside the outhouse.
Positive: 4 out of 5. Everyone comes to Jesus, which is nice enough, but one character tells his friend who decided he was ready to commit his life to God, "Come and see me in a couple weeks. We'll talk and pray." which shocked me. A lot can happen in 2 weeks, especially in a world where most the main characters were gravely injured at some point during the novel.
Gut reaction: 2 out of 5. There were some good ideas here. Amelia could've been a great catalyst for other people's lives, but she wasn't the type of person I really want to read about at length, especially when the book started with a character I found much more interesting.
Bonus points: 5 out of 5.
Total Rating: 2.9 out of 5 stars
*I downloaded this book for free from Amazon.