Elizabeth Travis was traveling west on a wagon train that was attacked by Indians. Presumed to be the sole survivor, she's found and rescued by Cameron Montgomery, a scout for another wagon train. He takes her with him and gives her a place in his own wagon, even though it raises a few hackles among the other settlers for him to have an unmarried woman in his care. The widowed Cameron has been planning to settle down on a piece of land he bought in Colorado after this trip and find another wife. He's more attracted to Elizabeth than he's been to any other woman for a long time and decides he wants to marry her. But since the attack, Elizabeth has been suffering from amnesia and isn't sure she should accept Cameron's suit without knowing for sure whether another man might be out there looking for her.
"Abandoned" is a stand-alone novella that almost entirely takes place on a wagon train headed west. Elizabeth was part of a wagon train that was attacked by marauding Indians who killed most of the settlers and burned their possessions. By some miracle, they left her alive and didn't take her with them. She's found unconscious by Cameron, one of the scouts for a different wagon train, who takes her back to his group. There he keeps her in his wagon, although him caring for an unmarried young woman sets some busybodies' tongues wagging. Cameron is a widower who has a piece of land in Colorado, and this is his last trip with the wagon train. He's brought supplies with him this time, and after they reach Denver, he's planning to settle down and find another wife. He views it as fortuitous that Elizabeth is basically dropped into his lap and wants to marry her as soon as they find a preacher, but she's suffering from partial amnesia and doesn't want to rush into anything until she's certain there isn't someone else out there waiting for her.
Sadly Cameron and Elizabeth aren't very deep characters. Most of what we learn about them I've already outlined in the paragraph above. A few more tidbits of Elizabeth's past come to light as she slowly regains her memory in bits and pieces, but overall, I didn't get a good sense of what made either of them who they are. Cameron lost his wife, but doesn't really seem too broken up over it. Even Elizabeth, who suffered through a traumatic event seems to bear few ill effects aside from a couple of minor injuries and one scene where she has a bad dream that's easily comforted away. That being the case and since she didn't receive any major knocks on the head, I couldn't quite figure out why she had amnesia. Maybe the experience was traumatic enough to make her forget, not only the event, but most of her life. However, if that was the case, then I felt that should have been shown through other emotional means such as her being more frightened. Then there was Cameron who got on my nerves with his chauvinistic, patronizing ways. I've admittedly read heroes who were worse, but many of his comments made made me roll my eyes at their ridiculousness. Then there's also the proprietary way in which he treats Elizabeth. Basically from the moment he finds her, he decides she's his and tells her he's going to marry her rather than asking. For her part, Elizabeth only puts up a token fuss over his high-handedness, and instead, generally eats it up, even though, when her memory returns, she makes a complaint about a friend of her father's who was traveling with them doing the exact same thing. So overall, I felt like she was a bit of a marshmallow who didn't have much of a backbone. I'm all for a man protecting and caring for his woman, but he needs to treat her as his equal and not make silly assumptions that she'll just roll over and agree to marry him.
In addition to the characterizations being lacking, the plot of "Abandoned" was pretty thin. It mostly consists of them traveling on the wagon train the rest of the way to Denver, which was probably the most interesting thing about the story. I'm always up for a good old west tale about settlers forging their way to a new life and I like the details of pioneer living. However, there's not much in the way of conflict other than Elizabeth not having all her memories and feeling like she can't accept Cameron's suit until she knows for sure whether she has a husband and then her also wanting to see if she can find her father who might still be alive. Also the romance doesn't have much depth either. It's pretty much insta-love with little rhyme or reason as to how, why, or when they fell for each other. Additionally there were a couple of other story points that were more minor but nonetheless bothered me. First, Cameron has a line not long after he finds Elizabeth, where he basically insinuates that all Indians are brutes and that they all view white people as their enemies, which wasn't true and seemed racially insensitive to me. Then toward the end, there's a brief mention of someone shooting another person for being a coward. Now admittedly the dead person was clearly no prize, but I didn't feel like his actions warranted the death penalty, especially given that he'd supposedly been friends with the man who shot him. For all these reasons, "Abandoned" ended up being just an OK read for me. I was able to give it three stars, probably due to the short length of the story. If I'd had to put up with Cameron for much longer, though, my rating likely would have dropped even more. It was my first read by Carolyn Davidson, but since I have several more of her books on my TBR pile, I'll likely give her another chance to wow me at some point. I just may not be in a hurry to do so and I'll be hoping that her next hero isn't quite so annoying and that the story and characters have a bit more depth. "Abandoned" can be found in the anthology Wed Under Western Skies.
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