I like marriage of convenience stories. I like westerns that offer a
look at what life was really like on the frontier. I like gentle
humor. I like feisty heroines. I love heroes who call their heroines
"darlin." So there was a lot for me to like in Patricia Roy's first
novel. Hence, I am recommending it but with the warning that it has a
few of the faults that one might expect from a novice author. But I
think such a promising debut deserves encouragement.
First, the problems. There is nothing major, but I did feel that Roy
did too much "telling" rather than "showing." There are too many
lengthy descriptive paragraphs that slow down the narrative. The ending
seems a bit contrived, as if the author asked, "Now, how will I tie up
all these loose ends?" And Roy's villain doesn't quite come off the way
she wanted him to. But frankly, these are relatively minor matters that
did not detract much from my enjoyment of Lucky Stars.
Lucky Stars begins with a prologue where we see the hero, Leon
McCoy, standing outside his father's house, watching his father,
stepmother and her children share the holiday spirit. Leon has never
felt he belonged, as a series of "stepmothers" came and went in his
home. (BTW, the numbers of "stepmothers" seemed a bit excessive and
improbable; this little bit of Leon's personal history seemed overdone.)
Fourteen years later, in 1869, Leon rides into Hope Springs, Colorado,
angry because a promised job has fallen through. He enters the local
saloon for a drink and if possible, a night of "loving." There he sees
a most improbable saloon girl. But, looking beyond the modest black
dress, Leon sees an attractive figure of a woman. And when she smiles
at him and invites him to dinner, he thinks that his luck has changed.
Marjorie Bascom has come to the Lucky Lady saloon in search of a husband. She
wants to homestead 160 acres of land and has been told that a single
woman can't file a claim. So Marjorie needs a husband, preferably one
who will drift quickly out of her life. And she needs one fast, before
someone else takes possession of the land that she wants.
After some nicely humorous confusion, Leon finally realizes what
Marjorie wants. He's not having any, but needs must, and Marjorie finds
a way to force him into wedding her. Before he knows what's happened,
Leon finds himself married, on his way to Denver, and a homesteader. He
also discovers that Marjorie wants him out of her life as soon as
possible and wants to do nothing at all about the strong, sensual
attraction between them.
But when suspicion of a murder falls on Leon, he can't leave town and so
the two find themselves thrown together. And the marriage of
convenience threatens to become something else.
The barriers that prevent each from trusting and loving each other are
fully explained. Leon's childhood and experiences with another woman
plus his fondness for a roaming life make him a poor candidate for
settling down. Marjorie watched her beloved mother suffer from her
feckless father's unsettled ways. Her sister's husband abandoned his
wife in pursuit of some foolish dream. And her aunt has likewise
followed her husband from pillar to post.
As far as Marjorie is concerned, men are unreliable at best and she
believes she will be far happier depending solely on herself. Both Leon
and Marjorie must come to recognize that finding true love is worth
taking a chance on trusting each other.
The strength of Lucky Stars is the characters. Roy shows a real
talent for creating believable and likable men, women and children.
Their hopes, fears and dreams were what kept me reading the book and why
I am recommending it to others who like character-driven stories. This
is not a book without flaws, but it is a most promising beginning to
what I believe will be a long and rewarding writing career for Patricia