Gold Rush Bride

The Mackintosh Bride

Northern Exposure

On Thin Ice

The Virgin Spring

 
Rocky Mountain Marriage
by Debra Lee Brown
(Harlequin Historical, $5.25, PG-13) 0-373-29295-3
***
Dora Fitzpatrick arrives in Last Call, Colorado, to claim the ranch left to her by her father.  She had neither seen nor heard from him since she was very young.  Her mother had nothing good to say about William Fitzpatrick. Dora, a schoolteacher, is surprised to find that her father not only left her a ranch but also left her the Royal Flush saloon.  It is a full service saloon with a bar, gambling, and ladies with business upstairs. 

One of the people always at the saloon is Chance Wellesley.  He is the resident gambler and shares his winnings with the house.  He is also very handsome and flirts with ease, but Dora catches glimpses of undercurrents to his personality.  She is attracted to him, which scares her.  She does want to know what he is hiding.  She discovers that her father was shot and killed, but no one knows by whom.  She receives a letter that hints that there is something valuable for her to discover.  As she looks for it, Chance always seems to be around.  She doesn't know whether to trust him or not. 

Chance is a very good gambler.  But he is much more.  He is also trying to find out who killed William "Wild Bill" Fitzpatrick.  Exactly why he wants to know is hidden through most of the story with the answer not coming out until very close to the end.  I would have preferred knowing more about his reasons earlier.

At first, Dora plans to close the saloon and sell it as quickly as possible, but discovers that her father owes considerable money to the bank and to a number of merchants.  The staff convinces her to keep it open so that she can continue to make money to pay the debts while she is looking for a buyer. 

Dora decides to use the sleuthing skills she has learned from reading novels to discover her father's secret.  The question is who to trust: Chance, the town banker who wants to court her, the madam who seemed to know a lot about her father, the bartender, or some of the girls.  The author describes several of these characters well enough to keep you guessing everyone's motives.

Most of the way through the story, Dora uses her brain and considers the clues and her strategies.  That is why I was surprised when near the end of the story, she suddenly makes a bad decision concerning Chance.  It was one of those eye-rolling moments that didn't seem to fit her character.  It did lead to the truth about one of the people mentioned above, but it was still a distraction. 

I did enjoy that the mix of people were not the usual stereotypes.  The mystery was also not adequate. I just wish that Chance had revealed more about himself earlier and that Dora had trusted him enough to not make that bad decision.  Not perfect, but a nice twist on a western romance.

--B. Kathy Leitle


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