Lady Gypsy by Pam Crooks
(Leisure, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-4911-2
Gypsy Lady is just the kind of story we need these days…two strong people from opposing worlds who meet, fall in love, marry and face the world’s prejudices together. It is a story of hope that two people can make a small difference in changing people’s perceptions. Most of all, it is the kind of story that makes you enjoy the love these two share without seeing all that symbolism I just threw in there!

Liza (no last name given) is cursed with being part-Gypsy and part Gaje (white), a result of an extra-marital affair between her mother and a white man. Liza is tolerated by the tribe, adored by her brothers and sisters and yet, is shunned by the men as not marriageable. She has grown up hating the whites for all they have done against the Gypsy, yet a part of her yearns for acceptance from this part of her heritage.

Reese Carrison is a self-made railroad owner ready to finally reap the benefits of his hard work. He is about to celebrate the completion of his new railroad, he has decided to propose marriage to the widowed daughter of his best friend and he is ready to settle down to living a good life. Although Reese doesn’t know Rebecca Ann very well, she is lovely and has a beautiful, albeit spoiled, little girl named Margaret Michelle. Ah, but nothing is ever so simple.

On the day of the big celebration, the Gypsies enter the city to sell their wares and enjoy the festivities. Niobrara City, Nebraska has come alive to celebrate the opening of the Nebraska - Dakota Railroad, which will link them to points north and west. Liza is selling baskets she has made so she can buy her mother a new scarf.

In the midst of the celebration, Margaret Michelle wanders over to Liza and her baskets. Rebecca Ann finds her, instantly assumes the worst, and ridicules the “dirty Gypsy”. Later, in the midst of much confusion, Margaret Michelle again follows the basket wagon. Liza is wrongly accused of trying to steal the little girl and she flees, stealing Reese’s stallion. Reese gives chase and their story begins.

A sudden Nebraska rainstorm turns into a tornado and they are forced to seek shelter. Both Reese and the stallion are hurt. Liza uses her gift of healing to help both Reese and the horse. Wary, but forced to trust due to the circumstances, Reese and Liza get past their prejudice. Although drawn to each other physically, they learn to like each other first. This is a refreshing change from stories that start with lust and then move to friendship and love.

As the story moves forward, the feelings they have for each other deepen while they struggle with the prejudice from both worlds. Upon returning to Niobrara City, Reese makes a bargain with Liza: she stays with him to help heal his horse and he promises to use the telegraph to search for her family. His influence in the town quiets the concerns over the “Kidnapping misunderstanding” and paves the way for Liza’s acceptance.

During this time, we experience their joys in each other and their sorrow when hurt by words or deeds. Their struggles between the two worlds are handled very convincingly.

The secondary characters in the book are developed so that they are not one-dimensional. This is an asset in a book of this type, when the easy way out is to use stereotypes to get the point across. The author does a good job of trying to show the Gypsy as a culture with real people, with good and bad men, not just the negatives we often are shown.

The book had several distractions. The pace is uneven. It is difficult to keep the time frame …one day, one week…how long things took did not seem consistent. Another problem was the lack of attention Reese gave to his railroad. It was just getting off the ground and he talked about the need to get in to work, but he never did. Yet, the railroad just kept running smoothly.

Luckily, the strength of the love story between two main characters and the way the author handles the prejudices of the people overcomes these little issues to make Gypsy Lady a book I can recommend. Or you can read it at face value and just enjoy the fun of falling in love!

--Shirley Lyons

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