So I have decided to just do a Maggie Osborne glom. Her writing voice is simply speaking
to me right now. Prior to my foray into her books, I hadn't read a western, Americana romance since...well... the late 80s maybe. I think maybe The Gamble by LaVyrle Spencer was my last one or close to it.
This one was just as wonderful as the other two. I think sometimes I get so exasperated with romance because the overwhelming majority of heroines are beautiful and no matter their issues or problems they always seem to inhabit a place of inner certainty. This is by no means a bad thing as I couldn't stand a drip of a heroine either. But it does offer a lack of variety. And it can't be a mistake that I often find heroes more memorable than the heroines after the book is closed.
But MO writes female characters that are incredibly vivid and really distinctive. It may just be one small thing that sets her apart, but it is enough to cut them from the herd, so to speak.
In this one, Louise (also known as Low Down) is our intrepid heroine whose seminal memory is of traveling west on an orphan train and living in a foster home where she was repeatedly told she was worthless. But she has worked all her life in good, honest work and tried not to be so worthless. In this chapter of her life, she is a gold prospector, in a little town that is beset by a small pox epidemic. She alone stayed to nurse back to health over sixty miners after everyone else left the place to become all but a ghost town.
With insults, threats and sheer force of will she manages to help save these rough, gruff miners. After the epidemic is over they all celebrate and want to reward her with whatever her little heart desires. She does the unthinkable. She asks for a baby.
This sets off a chain of events that culminates in her marriage to one of the miners, Max McCord. Max is a man of honor who does his duty to the woman who saved his life, but it is a bitter pill to swallow. He was to be married to the woman of his dreams within weeks. But now he is taking Louise home instead and it will cause a scandal.
From here, the rest of the tale is a well written, totally engrossing story about living with the choices we all make. I like that the story doesn't shy away from the awkwardness of the pairing, how they have to weather out the scandal, the fall-out Max has to face for jilting his bride. But it also spools out wonderfully as each character reacts and acts to the situation. And there is a natural, sweet progression to the story as Max (and Louise) realizes her true worth both within her self and to him. By the time they realize they are in love it feels just right.
It is also worth a mention that Louise isn't the only strongly drawn female character. Max's mother Livvy is a true matriarch whose driving purpose is to keep her family strong and together and her actions bear that out. And then there is Philadelphia, Max's erstwhile fiancee. In light of how MO created the character arc for another wealthy, spoiled character in Brides of Prairie Gold, I was interested to see if Philadelphia's arc would be as rich and nuanced as Augusta's was in that book. While Philadelphia's story wasn't as layered or as interesting as Augusta's it was nonetheless still a fascinating look at a character and the writing elevated her above the run of the mill villainess.
Really good book, highly recommended!