Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Time Of Legend

To kick off It Came From The TBR, let us hop into the Wayback Machine to a long forgotten time in Romance Novel Land. A magical time. A time of legend and myth. A time when Avon still published historicals that didn't take place in England. Hard to imagine now, but such a time did exist. Here in the real world we know it as the year 2000.

And in case you're wondering, it's really not that hard for me to be this much of a smart ass. Just ask my mother.

Mail Order Bride by Maureen McKade is a wonderful trip down memory lane. It reminds me, once again, of the great western romance authors Avon used to have writing for them. This isn't as emotional (and gut-wrenching) as McKade's more recent work for Berkley, but it's still pretty darn good.

Kate Murphy is a girl with limited options. Her abusive, drunken father finally had the good sense to die, but he left her with nothing but a dilapidated cabin and debt. She sells what she can, and decides to become a mail order bride. She answers an ad from a miner in Orion, Colorado. However she arrives on the stage the same day as a mine cave-in and learns her intended has died. Now she's really screwed, since she only has a few dollars left to her name. But luckily good fortune is smiling on our gal. She quickly secures lodging with a local widow woman (who has outlived five husbands, bless her soul) and gets a job as a nanny taking care of the mine superintendent's, Trev Trevelyan's, children. Kate don't know nothing about no babies, but it's either take care of 4-year-old Annabel Lee and infant Brynn or work in a saloon. Not much of a choice.

Trev's wife died in childbirth and she left a long shadow. She was above Trev in social standing, and resented her step down in the food chain. She also wasn't much of a mother, suffering what one might deduce as severe postpartum depression (or she could just be a spoiled child herself, but I like the depression theory). Since her death, Trev's daughter hasn't spoken a word, leaving many in town to think the girl is daft. Trev adores his children, but he has to work for a living, which means finding day care. The woman he was leaving them with turns out to be unacceptable, and he's damn near desperate when Kate Murphy falls into his lap.

Any romance reader worth their salt knows where this is going. Kate and Trev soon find themselves attracted to each other even though Trev has sworn off marriage, and Kate vows not to marry a miner once she learns how dangerous the job is (being from Kansas, she had no idea). She needs money to get out of Orion and Trev needs a sitter. It's win-win for both of them until they go and fall in love with each other. External conflict involving the mine cave-in and a looming labor strike keeps the story humming along between the tap dancing that Kate and Trev do around each other.

What I really enjoyed about this story is that both hero and heroine were grown-ups. They both had their own dreams, desires, and problems to deal with. Kate is my favorite kind of heroine. A Plain Jane spinster who is practical, not given to fits of vapors, and has a brain rattling around in her head. Trev is a good man living with past mistakes. It was a very pleasant read about nice people who don't succumb to silly, contrived conflict. It was well worth digging out my TBR, and it's well worth a look should you run across it during your next visit to the used bookstore.

Final Grade = B


~ames~ said...

Good review. Makes me glad I bought this recently at the UBS. :P

Nikki said...

Do you thing it will be hard to find, besides Ames finding it?

Wendy said...

Nikki: Good question! The online vendors I checked aren't exactly selling it cheap. But the good news is that it is available through WorldCat. Check your local library and if they don't have it, they should be able to obtain it for you via Inter-Library Loan (ILL). Policies on this service vary from library to library (some charge, some don't), so you'll need to ask the staff at your library.

I've had my copy in the TBR for years. I found it very readily at my local UBS, but that was 6+ years ago! So you can't go by my experience.

Kristie (J) said...

Ah Damn I remember those olden golden days of Avon when they were the best. Now I can barely read them knowing what they used to be. This one sounds real good. I'll have to track it down me thinks

Rosie said...

I really liked this one because even though we know where it's going Ms. McKade doesn't take us there in a conventional or contrived way.

Lori said...

I picked this up at PBS, and also really liked it.

Nikki, I'm about to post it back up at PBS. Look for it under my name mctclover, and then just shoot me an email through PBS. I'll send it to you!

Wendy said...

Kristie: I think you'd really like this one.

Rosie: I agree, and I think it's because both of the characters act like grown-ups. The conflict is "real" and never comes off as petty or silly. It just all around worked for me. It also didn't hurt that Kate is a pitch perfect example of my favorite type of heroine.

sybil said...

heee I think I have two of them... but I need to look. Oh and read it. WOOT!

I should go look and just make sure. :)

Cheryl St.John said...

I DO have this on my TBR shelf and it sounds like just the thing I need for inspiration! Will get it out now.