The Colorado Bride by Mary Burton
(Harl. Historical # $4.99 PG) ISBN 0-373-29170-1
***
Cole McGuire is back in White Stone - which was once a prosperous mining town but has fallen on hard times. Cole, who grew up poor and disliked in the town, hasn’t much sympathy for the place. He’s now more prosperous and he has no intention of staying long. All he wants in White Stone is the child that he recently discovered he fathered.

Rebecca Sinclair Taylor, once the daughter of the richest man in town, now sells pies to support herself and her son. When she meets Cole, she fears the worst - Cole will find out that her son isn’t hers but Cole’s. When the mother of Cole’s baby and Rebecca’s child died at almost the same time, Rebecca took the infant in. Now she’s not going to give her toddler up to a man with Cole’s reputation.

Any book that rests on the heroine lying about the most important thing in the hero’s life - and getting an entire town to help her lie - has some hurdles to overcome. The author doesn’t overcome them here. Rebecca is a good mother but her suspicions about Cole are vague. There’s no real reason to hide Cole’s son from him except for selfish ones. Even that might be understood and forgiven, but her reasons are never given a good explanation in the story.

Cole, the brooding outsider, remains fairly consistent. He’s always wanted what he can’t have and not having his son is just one of a long series of disappointments he’s received in White Stone. Presumably he stay around this time for Rebecca - the woman he’s always wanted but couldn’t have - but this isn’t entirely clear. Does he plan to seduce her? Just hang around? He ought to have a clear plan since no one else wants him around.

Rebecca is portrayed as the ultimate adoptive parent and a resourceful rich-girl-now-poor . The author never shows Rebecca when she was a spoiled young woman. However, her old ability to have whatever she wanted while her father was alive would be a believable reason why she feels entitled to hang on to the boy. Her overwhelming love for her only son could work, too, but the author never gives that as the reason. So a reader has to wonder why the woman, who was willing to help a dying saloon girl, would then deny the dying woman’s last wish - to have her son know his father.

Besides motivation, the setting has problems too. Originally, given that the hero rides in on a horse and based on what people wear, the setting seems to be perhaps the late nineteenth century. Then the little boy in the story talks about a toy truck. Since there seems to be no such thing in the town, it’s unclear whether this was a strange anachronism or whether perhaps old-fashioned mines have something called trucks. The author never explains.

Overall, The Colorado Bride has some potentially explosive elements that just don’t spark. Cole’s attraction for the unobtainable Rebecca doesn’t seem strong enough at first. Rebecca’s continued refusal to tell Cole the truth doesn’t seem plausible. The townspeople who often step in - for good or bad - in the hero and heroine’s life sometimes offer too convenient answers. The story doesn’t offer anything new and the traditional elements aren’t handled in an exciting way. That doesn’t leave much reason for a reader to linger in White Stone.

--Irene Williams


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