Review: Corralling Callie by Amelia Smarts

Reviewed by Ronelle

Callie is determined to make a life for herself away from the orphanage. When her friend Sam suggests she send off as a mail-order bride, she does, and the response she gets from Albert seems to be a dream come true. He lives in California, is wealthy, and his letters to her are sweet and hopeful. What she tells him in return might be stretching the truth a little. When he sends her a stagecoach ticket so she can join him, she’s more than ready to go.

As a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo, Jude has no time or tolerance for nonsense. And when Callie comes running up to him with a clearly altered ticket, he sees nonsense and a healthy dose of trouble behind that pretty smile. Against what may turn out to be his better judgement, he agrees to let her travel with them. The other passengers are less than thrilled to have the mouthy, undisciplined, and troubled woman in their midst.

It’s going to be a long ride to California…especially when Jude decides to take Callie’s disciplining into his own hands. It may well be more than either of them bargained for and spanking isn’t always a punishment.

Reading that this was written by a “#1 Amazon bestselling author who was named Best New Spanking Romance Author” in 2016 led me to have pretty high expectations for “Corralling Callie.” I was left holding half of them by the end. Sure, there was spanking and a romance, but I was anticipating so much more than was actually delivered. What semi-redeemed this for me was the ending and the narrator, though the latter took some warming-up-to.

I think the problem here is that “Corralling Callie” was too short for what it was attempting to accomplish. There were good, solid bones here, but 3 hours/97 pages just doesn’t allow for a truly developed plot, let alone a fleshed-out romance or great characters. Callie and Jude did have more development than any of the other characters (those were easily forgotten shadows, more or less) but they were still kinda flat. Callie showed almost no growth in that she continued to exhibit the same behaviors over and over, and Jude just continued to handle her shenanigans the same way. I wanted more for and from these two and I never got it. And the spanking? I have the sneaking suspicion that the story was built around it rather than it being integrated into the story.

Look, I get that spanking was the point of this and it’s not something I’m opposed to in my romances. But in “Corralling Callie,” I just never felt the eroticism of it despite multiple occurrences. It started out as punishment and Callie didn’t feel anything but pain. It took a while before it became arousing for her. Personally, the only time I found it well-written was the last time it occurred, and the sex it preceded was, quite frankly, a letdown. Overall, I would have preferred quality to quantity.

That aside, the ending was satisfying. I wasn’t sure, up until it actually happened, how Ms. Smarts was going to pull off a Happily Ever After for Jude and Callie. But she did it and it was one of the passages I enjoyed the most in this story. It might look contrived at first glance, but I’m one of those people who believes in serendipity. This was such a case, and it made me smile. The fact that it was a HEA for all parties was even better. While I may have had mixed feelings about the rest of Ms. Smarts’ tale, I tip my hat to her for the wonderful ending. She has quite a few other stories out there, and if any of them are longer (long enough to allow for adequate development), I might give them a try.

As for the narration…Gideon Welles was a good choice. There were, however, issues with the audio quality. The intro was awful—rattley/scratchy and sounding as if he was too close to the recorder—and I was afraid that would continue. The rattling/vibrating (it’s hard to describe) was only present in the credits, but I continued to feel as if Mr. Welles either had a sub-par recorder or he was too close to it. There was the occasional awkward pause in the middle of a sentence that interrupted the flow and, this could certainly be an issue with the manuscript, sections were run together without pause. Overall, this was not the best recording I’ve ever heard, BUT Mr. Welles’ portrayal of the characters was quite good. Jude was my favorite and sounded the most natural; his accent was perfect and the gravelly quality of his voice sounded realistic. While it’s always a bit strange for me to hear a male doing a female voice, Mr. Welles made it easy to forget. He didn’t dramatize Callie too much and I soon forgot the difference.

Bottom line: While this was not one of my favorites, “Corralling Callie” was a quick listen and a nice palate-cleanser from some of the more serious things I’ve been reading. I’d recommend it for that purpose, but don’t go into this expecting much depth.

Rating: C

Click to purchase: Amazon

Corralling Callie
by Amelia Smarts
Narrator: Gideon Welles
Release Date: August 19, 2016

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