As high school students in Crayton, Maryland, Patsy Washington and Austin Treadwell fell in love. Their chaste relationship ended abruptly when Patsy’s autocratic father, one of the town’s leading citizens, objected to her relationship with a boy from the other side of the tracks.
In the sixteen years that have passed, Austin has completed high school, earned graduate and undergraduate degrees and qualified as a CPA. When the novel begins, he has just received a fellowship to study at Howard University Law School. During the same time, Patsy has remained under the thumb of her manipulative father. In her sheltered world, Patsy=s father controls almost every aspect of her life.
One thing Jacob Washington cannot control is the roving eye of Bryan Pickert, the politically connected fiancé he handpicked for his daughter. When Patsy goes to Bryan’s house to tell him she is pregnant with his child, she discovers him in bed with her best friend. She breaks off the engagement and informs her father there will be no wedding.
Fearing disgrace of the family name and showing no compassion for his daughter, Jacob gives
Patsy three options: either get an abortion, get married or get out of town. He adds, “If you insist on staying here in Crayton, get busy and find a husband, or I’ll find one for you.” When it seems Patsy is dragging her heels and not moving toward any of the choices he has outlined, Jacob Washington decides to complicate Austin Treadwell’s life by blackmailing him into marrying Patsy. It’s deja vu all over again for Austin.
Austin and Patsy live in the same town, but have had no contact with each other in sixteen years since their forced break up. However, he calls her up out of the blue, invites her to dinner and promptly proposes marriage. No fanfare. No ring. No declarations of love. No second date. Patsy confesses to Austin that she is pregnant, but he doesn’t mind. It just means they must marry as soon as possible.
Patsy’s mother doesn’t accompany her only daughter to select her wedding dress, but does suggest she pick something nice. Her father curiously has offered no objection to his daughter marrying a man he once felt wasn’t good enough for her. Austin’s ex-girlfriend crashes the wedding dressed in black. Her bridegroom seems unwilling to consummate the marriage. And through it all, Patsy doesn’t smell a rat…until much later in the novel.
Austin and Patsy Treadwell leave Crayton to set up housekeeping in Washington, D.C., where Austin is beginning law school. Much is made of their “poverty.” And, while the Treadwells are not living in the style to which Patsy has become accustomed, they live no worse than the average married college couple. Patsy is befriended by Lena, a wonderful older secondary character, whose romance with Cody is one of the highlights of the novel.
Lena teaches Patsy how to cook and thrift shop and remove waxy yellow build up. Austin, despite his education and experience, works two part-time jobs - one in a bakery and the other in a hardware store. His wife, content to share her life with Austin, manages the Treadwell household. Later, Patsy earns money by giving piano lessons to neighborhood children and by working a part-time job as a closed circuit DJ. And although, they are determined not to accept anything from her parents, Patsy’s got a trust fund stashed neatly away.
Gwynne Forster is one of my favorite authors. The strength of her work is in the development of her heroes. Rufus Meade, Marcus Hickson, Duncan Banks, Magnus Cooper, to name a few. They are strong men of great integrity. Austin Treadwell is no different. He does fight his father-in-law’s machinations at every turn, but it is Patsy and not her father who ultimately suffers. I had difficulty reconciling some of his actions with the type of man he is drawn to be. That and Patsy’s lack of perception regarding the orchestration of her marriage are two elements of the novel that never quite came together for me.
Midnight Magic, a weak three-heart read, is light years away from Gwynne Forster’s excellent novel, Beyond Desire. Like this romance, Beyond Desire is a marriage-of-convenience story with a pregnant heroine. Like Midnight Magic, the hero forced by circumstances to marry a woman who is carrying another man’s child. That is the Gwynne Forster novel I’d strongly recommend.
TRR has also reviewed:
Against the Wind
Fools Rush In