The Texan's Touch

To Kiss a Texan

To Wed in Texas

Two Texas Hearts

 
Twilight in Texas by Jodi Thomas
(Jove, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-13027-3
***
Benjamin Hayward is an officer in the Confederate Army and a spy. Dressed in Union blue, he is in a train station in Philadelphia, watching a young woman tend the injured as he waits to board his train. Captivated by her grace and evident intelligence, he speaks to her briefly, tells her his first name, and asks her to wait for him. Molly Donivan, equally smitten, agrees but as Benjamin boards the train, he recognizes her father. General Donivan is one of the Union doctors Benjamin has been spying on. There can be no thought of matrimony between a Confederate spy and the daughter of a Union general.

Eight years later, "Wolf" Hayward is a Texas Ranger, headquartered in the growing community of Austin, Texas. He is bringing in one of the two, vicious Digger brothers for hanging. Within yards of the jail, Wolf is ambushed by Carrell Digger in an attempt to free his brother. The ambush results in the arrest of Carrell but in the course of his capture, Wolf is hit on the head and knocked unconscious by a sign that reads "Molly Donivan, Alchemist." When he comes to, he discovers that not only has he found his Molly, but he has also been saddled with the Diggers' niece, Callie Ann.

Molly trained to be a physician like her father but settled on being a pharmacist. She has just arrived from Pennsylvania and set up her shop, watched over by Ephraim, her late father's elderly assistant. She doesn't recognize her Benjamin in the wild man who has just been clobbered by her sign. And no wonder! Wolf is fifty pounds heavier than Benjamin, has grown a full beard, lets his hair hang down to his shoulders, and has reverted to the soft Southern speech that is natural to him.

With this encounter, the basic conflict in Twilight in Texas has been established. Will Wolf reveal his dual identity and if not, why not? At first he clings to the reasons that kept him from seeking Molly out as soon as the war ended: she is the daughter of a Union general and he spent the war as a spy for the Confederacy. After the war, he had no home to return to - instead there was a warrant out for his arrest - and it is only in the last four years, after he got to Texas, that he reestablished himself as an honest and respected citizen.

A little of this sort of non-communication goes a long way, but fortunately…less than halfway through the book…Wolf decides to confess and hopes that Molly will understand his deception. At that point, it is up to external events to prevent that heart-to-heart. Wolf's duties as a Texas Ranger and Molly's persecution by someone determined to put her out of business - even if it means killing her - provide the disruptions the plot requires.

Once the reader decides to believe that a 10-second encounter in a railroad station can make such an impact that neither of the principals ever have another liaison, the basic premise of the plot holds up. Of the two lovers, Wolf is the more convincing. Although emotionally scarred by the war, his skills have gained him the respect of both his fellow Rangers and the citizens of Austin. His courtship of Molly is, like his character, straightforward and - with the one glaring exception - honest.

I found Molly less believable. She was just a bit too brave and resilient, but mostly I had a hard time understanding why she'd hold on to her dream of Benjamin when she had a real, live Wolf pining to take care of her and share her bed. However, if I found Molly's thought processes unconvincing, little Callie Ann was wholly a work of fiction.

When her grandmother - who had always cared for her - died, she traveled by herself, under the care of a succession of strangers, from Savannah, Georgia, to Austin, Texas. Once in Austin, with her uncles both in jail, waiting to be hanged, Wolf and Molly adopt her informally. Does any of this - or any of her subsequent, unsettling adventures - ruffle Callie Ann's aplomb? No sirree. She doesn't throw temper fits, she doesn't cling to Wolf and Molly, she doesn't even wake up in the middle of the night crying. Callie Ann certainly doesn't resemble any of the almost-six-year-olds in my acquaintance.

Jodi Thomas has a plain but effective writing style that goes well with her subject matter. Several characters who appeared in her earlier works are drawn into this story; more are mentioned. I had not read anything by Thomas before, but others who have may find these guest appearances enjoyable. Overall, although I found Twilight in Texas pleasant, its charms were out-weighed by its logical inconsistencies.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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