Almost a Lady

Cinnamon & Roses

A Promise of Roses

 
Walkerís Widow by Heidi Betts
(Leisure, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-4954-6
****
Deliciously beautiful widow, Regan Doyle, has a secret life that no one in Purgatory, Texas suspects - sheís a burglar. Since her much older husbandís death, Regan has busied herself caring for her aging mother-in-law and the orphans at the local home for unwanted children. She has been generous with her time and money, but it just isnít enough. To make matters worse, some local townspeople have the nerve to parade around in jewels and finery, then claim the canít possibly help out the orphans. So enterprising Regan takes matters into her own hands, breaking into their homes, and taking a donation with her.

Martha Doyle canít stand to see her vibrant daughter-in-law still wearing widowís weeds after two years. She adores Regan, and wants her to find happiness with another man. Just so happens, that Martha has the perfect candidate - her Texas Ranger nephew, Clayton Walker. She just knows itís a match made in heaven, but has to come up with a plan to get him to leave his duties behind to visit Purgatory. What better way than to have him come look into the recent string of burglaries?

Naturally, Regan is annoyed by Claytonís presence. A Texas Ranger for crying out loud! Not only are her late night activities seriously threatened, but she also finds herself attracted to Clay like no other man before - including her dead husband. In turn, Clay has a hard time resisting Reganís womanly charms, even given the fact that he thinks there is more to the delectable young widow than sheís letting on. What will happen when the lawman realizes that the thief heís been sent to catch has stolen his heart?

Nothing makes a TRR reviewer happier than when we see marked improvement in an authorís work. While I may not have enjoyed an earlier publication, the likable characters, easy charm, and sense of humor in Walkerís Widow had me swallowing the minor problems I had with the story.

Regan is a heroine that isnít hard to like. Sure, sheís breaking the law, but she really believes itís for a greater good. Clayís appearance, and an emerging mystery in the last half of the story, muddies the waters a bit. While strong-willed, she has a caring nature, and even feels guilt over her continued deception.

It took me a while longer to warm up to Clay, as he comes off a bit too surly for my tastes in the beginning. However, he soon finds himself hopelessly distracted by Regan, and his roguish charm makes for some amusing scenes. In fact, the chemistry between the couple is easily the highlight of this story.

I wasnít so thrilled with the pacing. At almost 400 pages, the momentum sometimes loses footing and the story drags in spots. I found myself easily putting the book down towards the first half of the story. The introduction of a minor mystery towards the last half picks up the pace somewhat, and while I almost immediately spotted the culprit, the author throws in a twist to keep me humble. There is also the resolution of the whole lady thief and lawman angle, which I found satisfactory, but that some readers may not take a shine too.

That said, it appears Betts is trying to carve a niche for herself in historical comedy. I applaud the authorís ingenuity, as she had me chuckling several times over the course of this story. In a marketplace seemingly flooded with contemporary romantic comedies with cartoon covers, itís nice to find an author infuse some humor in a sub-genre that can take itself too seriously.

While a mixed read for this reviewer, I find myself recommending Walkerís Widow on the strength of the characters, and the light humor infused in the story. This first entry in a projected trilogy could easily have readers taking notice.

--Wendy Crutcher


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