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The Wedding Knot
by Patricia Roy
(Warner Books, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-446-60503-4
*
Patricia Roy's latest novel feels more like a fictional version of Ripley's Believe It Or Not than a romance. It has a little of everything heroine forced into prostitution, a valiant hero, a prairie fire, a mad general and friendly Native Americans.

What it doesn't have is a credible plot, compelling or even interesting love story or characters.

Meg Reilly has always lived with one foot in the poorhouse. Unfortunately, in Duluth, Minnesota, in the spring of 1875, Meg's luck has finally run out and so have her choices. In her 28 years she's done a little bit of everything (both within and without the law), not because she wanted to, but because she's a survivor. So, with a philosophical shrug and gritted teeth, Meg resigns herself to selling the only thing of value she has left herself and her virginity.

Fortunately or unfortunately, her first customer is 21-year-old Robert Hamilton, a newly deputized officer in the Canadian Mounted Police. Idealistic, nave and just down from the university, Robert joined the Mounties because the uncle that raised him believed it would "make a man out of him." His first assignment is to evaluate the condition of the trails leading into northwest Canada and its native population and evaluate the potential effectiveness of the Mounties in that region. But before he begins his months-long journey for his government, Robert decides to stop off at the Bouncing Bess to take care of a little personal business.

Meg and Robert's first meeting ends before they can become intimately acquainted, but lasts long enough to insure that neither will easily forget the other. This is born out when they meet again and despite their less than romantic surroundings, Robert can think of little else but picking up where they left off. Eventually however, the pair ends up traveling together through the inhospitable but relatively tame Canadian West.

Sadly, there was not any one particular component of the novel that I did not like, it was the whole package. Meg came across as irresponsible, unrealistic, and disturbingly glib about the reality of selling her body instead of the quirky, adventurous and courageous heroine Roy was aiming for. It is not until the end of the book that Meg makes a move toward common sense, but by this time it is so obviously out of character that it feels like it was an author's choice to move the plot along, rather than the character's decision.

As for Robert, this may be a personal bias, but there is a reason that heroes are not typically in their early 20s because they really are not very interesting. For all his hesitancy concerning deepening his relationship with Meg, overall Robert behaved as one would expect a young man to act and it is as boring on paper in the 19th century as it is in reality in the late 20th century.

Beyond the central storyline, Roy's efforts to spice up the novel with a dash of danger are silly. They spring up virtually out of the blue and are quickly shunted aside, plus they are as improbable as they are abrupt. As for bad guys and secondary characters, they receive the same "for convenience's sake" treatment as the other elements of the novel.

Every time I open a new book I start hoping that it will be a keeper, by the time I read four chapters of The Wedding Knot I was just hoping that it would end.

If you are a lover of pointless and implausible action movies, then you'll love The Wedding Knot. And then again, maybe not.

--Walaika Haskins


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