Violets are Blue by Ronda Thompson
(Leisure, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-5029-3
***
Rhonda Thompson can write romance and I do appreciate the chances she takes. The chance here lies in taking two very different and flawed characters - a selfish man and a woman with a heartbreaking past - then throwing them together to see if they can learn to care for one another: trust one another, love one another, heal one another and grow beyond who they were before they met.

The premise of Violets are Blue is terrific: we are responsible for the person we become. Love may not heal all wounds, but it can make us better people, or at least want to be better. While there is a lot to admire about the storyline, it has a few problems and I didn't completely buy into it.

In Violets are Blue, Violet Mallory is more than a little blue; she is angry and justifiably so. Sold by her father as a very young girl to a man who raped and beat her, Violet Mallory wants revenge: revenge against the man who abused her and revenge against the father who sold her for a case of whiskey. Violet also wants to rescue her baby sister and her brothers from her monster of a father.

Rescued by a woman of privilege and referred to as a "cousin" by the woman's family, Violet is regarded by St. Louis society as beautiful, wealthy and virginal - a fine prospect for marriage. But Violet knows no man would want her if he knew the truth about her past and she hates the men who ruined her life.

After using her spending money to track down her father and the man who bought her, Violet leaves St. Louis. Posing as a man, she plans to rob banks and blame the robberies on her father, a known criminal. But Miles Traften, the wealthy man who loves Violet like a father should, sends a man after her to try and bring her back to St. Louis.

And not just any man - Gregory Kline has always put his own needs above others, it's the way he was raised. Miles promises Gregory a lucrative reward for Violet's safe return -Gregory thinks he'll gain even more money and prestige if he can convince Violet to marry him.

Gregory knows nothing about Violet's past and can't fathom why she would want to rob banks and not even keep the money! Nothing about this beautiful, complicated woman makes sense but Gregory is drawn to her. Violet eventually makes him question his values and selfish goals; he starts to wonder if he could ever be a good enough for her.

As I said, there is a lot to like about this romance. Violet and Gregory are fascinating characters, both so damaged in such totally different ways. And I very much enjoyed how Violet manages to outwit Gregory much of the time by appealing to his less-than-better nature.

However, I couldn't believe, in the beginning before he starts caring for her, that Gregory would continue to pursue Violet after she robbed more than one bank. He even assists her in her criminal escapades.

Gregory is a reasonably intelligent man who likes easy money and is known for being extremely selfish. He wants a virginal society wife who will bring him money and prestige. Aiding and abetting a woman bank robber could easily get him substantial jail time or even killed, it doesn't make sense for his character to do this at the start of the story.

So as much as I enjoyed the unique main characters and the wonderful premise of Violets Are Blue, I couldn't believe someone like Gregory would continue risking his life and his life dreams (selfish as they are) for a woman determined to continue her personal crime spree. However, after he starts to care about Violet as a person and not just as a source of income, the storyline becomes believable and the ending is very satisfying.

--Judith Flavell


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