Expressly Yours, Samantha by Becky Lower

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Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

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Publisher and Release Date: Crimson Romance, March 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Colonial America
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Susan

A charming love story, Expressly Yours, Samantha delves into the Colonial American lore that romanticizes the Pony Express, the first government funded mail service in America. Terms like “stagecoach stations,” “hitching posts,” and “pioneer wagon trails” have meaning as the author incorporates the vernacular of early Americans into the story. It’s a short history lesson about a part of American culture that is rarely visited in high school textbooks.

Though Becky Lower shows a broad knowledge base of the terms that were common in Colonial America, she isn’t able to separate herself from common 21st century lingo such as “mean dude,” “subterfuge,” and “protect [their] way of life” when referring to the Native American Indians who are referred to as “Injuns” but never savages which they would’ve been by Colonial Americans. The author’s compassion towards American Indians is present throughout the story. Such modern ideas and concepts are scattered throughout the book, which at the heart is about Samantha Hughes and Valerian Fitzpatrick, both Pony Express riders.

Sam must pass for a boy in order to be a rider, a job she wants because of her love of horses and the chance to be on her own and away from her abusive uncle who wants to sell her to a bordello Madame. Val’s reason requires more speculation on the part of the reader, assuming that he enjoys working with horses. Unlike Sam, he is close to his family who loves and protects him in return.

The author enlightens readers about the pledge which the riders must take, a type of knight’s oath of fealty to his liege lord. Although Sam’s situation is very different from Val’s, the two find a common link in their joy in riding and taking care of horses, and their desire to perform an important service for their country. Their integrity is inspiring, though the author does more telling of the tale than of expressing what the characters feel and what sparks their emotions. The writing lacks a personal touch and tends to lay out the action rather than putting the characters, and by extension the readers, in the middle of it.

The premise entices readers of romantic fiction but the minor complication involving Sam’s uncle, who interferes in her life, is pushed into the story to create friction. It’s overly dramatic and takes away from the story’s plausibility. Perhaps it’s my 21st century mind which sees it that way, but it was very convenient when Sam’s uncle seemed to be prescient and was able to locate her – though she left no trail – and deduce that she was disguising herself as a boy to be a Pony Express rider. There is no evidence to suggest he could figure it out on his own. In fact, Sam’s uncle is constantly described as being ignorant.

The love story between Sam and Val, however, buds nicely and believably. Their affection for one another feels genuine and Val’s protective nature, which is spurred on by Sam, fits his character. They are a couple that is made to be together.

Expressly Yours, Samantha charms readers with a romantic pair made to be together and set in the backdrop of Colonial America. Though the author misses the opportunity to describe the stretch of prairies and plains which the riders cross to deliver the mail, it focuses mostly is on what is important, the bond between Sam and Val, which puts emphasis on humans being loving to each other.

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