Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold - Ellen O'Connell I'll admit upfront that I read this book in response to its regular, suspicious pimping on the Amazon romance boards. No book out there has all five-star reviews, at least not legitimate ones, but I'd have to read it to know for sure. Now that I have read it, I'll say that maybe some of those accolades are honest. If you don't pay attention to writing skill or mind too much telling or info dump, the plot is compelling enough that a pure plot reader could enjoy a book like this just fine.The action opens with a desperate, hungry and bedraggled Anne Wells on the run from her domineering father in 1880s Colorado. Determined to convince her to marry a much older man she finds repulsive, her father had locked her in her room and fed her starvation rations. Adamant that she will not relent, she'd taken off running the night before. She's just woken up on a pile of hay in a barn on Cord Bennett's horse farm and is ready to beg the man to help her escape. Unfortunately for them both, her father arrives with a posse while she's in Cord's house. Enraged to find her with the half-Indian outcast, and with his chosen suitor's refusal to marry her because of it, he and some ranch hands explode in a fury of violence. Cord and Anne are married at gunpoint then savagely abused. While one man nearly rapes Anne, cutting her with a knife in the process, the other hands beat and kicked Cord before leaving him for dead. Content that he's left her a widow, Anne's father leaves her there to crawl back and beg for her family's help later.Against all odds, Cord survived the beating, albeit just barely. Injured herself, Anne nonetheless musters the strength to drag him inside and nurse him back to health. Despite the inauspicious beginning and knowing their families and the community won't accept them readily, they decide to take the marriage vows seriously and try to make a go of it.The plot itself is fairly compelling, although it relies almost entirely on external conflict. There's never a dull moment with these two. Between his loving but distrustful family, her openly disapproving and scheming one and a town full of naysayers, there's always some conflict they're fighting, sass mouthing or riding their way out of. It certainly doesn't want for drama.Unfortunately, and I am honestly disappointed in this, what could have been a rather poignant tale of two people making it work despite the odds ends up being a lesson in poor writing and editing. Since the book is self-published, I don't know if she hired an editor. I'm going to assume she did not and ascribe many of the faults to that. A good editor would've recognized the potential in this plot while taking a red pen to the epic info dumps and the tendency to plainly tell instead of show.As a result, the first third to half of the book is almost painful to read. I was so eager to keep reading it that I put it down for a month and a half, levelling my fishing and archaeology in WoW instead. It read like an extremely long and detailed synopsis rather than an actual story. She had a really exciting idea for a novel here, but took too long to start actually crafting it. Wooden characters vomiting bits of backstory do not an engaging story make.Further bolstering my theory that this was unedited is how the writing changes and improves in the last third of the book. It was like I was reading someone's semester-long creative writing project rather than a cohesive novel. This was the author's practice run. She seemed to have trouble finishing it, lingering on a bit too long after the book-long father conflict arc concluded, but the writing was crisper, the dialog more natural and the characters more organic as the story neared the end.The longer the book went on, the more enthralled I was with it. In the end, I liked the pairing of strong, quiet and gentle Cord with spirited, cheerful and determined Anne. The characters were generally well drawn, though I never did come to understand why Cord's brothers acted the way they did, beyond propping up the conflict arc. Ultimately, though, the dreadful first half drags the rating down. If you can look past amateurish writing for a good plot, then this book may work for you. As for me, if I didn't feel bound to finish and review it, I'd have quit a quarter of the way in.