Addie and the Laird
by Linda Lea Castle
(Zebra Ballad, $5.50, PG-13) 0-8217-6715-1
**
From the first page of Addie and the Laird, I had an inkling that this story wasn’t going to hold my attention. I truly despise romance novels where the hero and heroine lie to each other, and it’s obvious from the get-go that the whole plot rests on a Big, Stupid Lie.

Adelaide Green and her two sisters, Charlotte and Matilda, were left orphaned by a flood that swept through their hometown in the lower Nebraska Territory. Unbeknownst to her sisters, or anyone else for that matter, Addie is a virgin widow - she’d married her childhood sweetheart secretly, but he, too, was swept away in the flood before the marriage was announced.

Marriage prospects for three single women in Gothenburg aren’t so hot, so the trio decides to move to a charter town called McTavish Plain, where if you work for five years, you’ll get the deed to land and a house. The only catch is that the town’s founder, Ian McTavish, has decreed that no single women can live in his town. Addie’s sisters devise a plan: they’ll simply say they’re married and waiting for their husbands to join them. Then one by one, each will learn that her “husband” has died, starting first with Addie.

Addie hates the whole plan. She whines and complains and feels mighty guilty over this lie, but she goes along with it. After all, she’s the oldest and she needs to protect her sisters.

Ian McTavish is from Scotland, a self-made man who has built a thriving community in the northern Nebraska Territory. He wants no single women around for two reasons: they’re too distracting to the single men, and mostly because single women remind him of the woman who jilted him. McTavish Plain, thus, is a community populated by families -- and single men faced with a serious dilemma should they ever want to start families! Luckily, Ian has that angle covered for himself: his sexual needs are met by a widowed Native American woman named Grass Singing, who happens to be very jealous.

Ian’s behavior toward Addie is strange. He thinks she’s nothing to look at, yet he keeps hanging around her, wondering what the real story is behind her marriage. Addie, meanwhile, is both dumbstruck by Ian’s good looks, but annoyed by his constant lurking about. Even though she’s “married” and Ian knows it, he is constantly in her face, and at one point, locked to her lips. (Which led me to wonder why he even allowed married women in his town!)

Finally, the fake letter arrives at the post office, and in a ridiculous scene, Addie “learns” that her “husband” has died. With the whole town standing around, talk turns quickly to how Addie can stay in McTavish Plain, considering that she’s now single. Ian gives her a month to pick out a single man to remarry, and if she doesn’t pick one, he’ll pick one for her.

I won’t tell you any more of the plot, except that Addie and Ian end up together. But after a couple hundred pages of Addie feeling guilty about lying, but never confessing (though the author builds up to several confessional scenes that never pan out), I was bored. More than bored, I was annoyed by Addie and her lies. At one point she admits, “One part of her was gleeful to find that Ian could be just as deceitful as she had been … more so because his sin involved a woman he had been involved with.” That one sentence gives you some insight into her character. In other scenes, she rails against him for being dishonest with her. A little too much of the pot calling the kettle black.

Addie and the Laird is the first book in a series called “Bogus Brides” and I’m guessing that the following books will tell the tales of Addie’s two younger sisters. Since they’re also in McTavish Plain under false pretenses, I can’t imagine that I’d be interested enough to see how they get out of their predicaments.

--Diana Burrell


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