by Carol Carson, historical (2000)
Leisure, $4.99, ISBN 0-8439-4806-X
Steamboat Bend schoolteacher Nora-Leigh Dillon can't stand the irritating and ill-behaved kids she has to teach/babysit. She has to take care of her cantankerous mother, for the old lady is slowly losing her eyesight. Life in Steamboat Bend is so-ooo-ooo boring that Nora-Leigh ("Nellie" to her friends) would daydream about grand adventures and treasures and a dashing adventurer hunk to sweep her off her feet.
Hence, when piratey-looking Clay Sullivan turns up at her doorstep, she is thrilled. Clay is looking for some treasure for the Army, and Nellie's late grandfather may hold some clues to its whereabouts. But to get the map to the treasure, he has to take Nellie along with him too. Nellie knows this is her chance to have an adventure, and an adventure she will have - or no treasures for the Army.
Sounds like one of those bad stories that has the heroine shrieking and tripping her way into trouble and the hero having to rescue her again and again, doesn't it? Guess what - Fortune's Treasure is such a story. Instead of gulping down Pepto-Bismol by the bucketloads, however, I do have fun.
After all, the author manages to convey Nellie's sense of increasing exasperation/boredom with her life very well. The daydreamer in me can sure relate to her, stuck in a life that seems to be nothing more than a daily routine of the same old things. It is so easy to forgive this woman's clumsy, reckless, and more often than not silly ways because hey, I understand. Carpe diem and hakuna matata, yes?
Fortune's Treasure has all the recipes for a disaster read, but it manages to make the two main characters so charming, so likeable, and ooh, Nellie isn't that bad, really. She's a rather adorable ditz, like that librarian-turned-mummy-hunter woman in that Brendan Fraser movie The Mummy. The hero's grouchy exterior and softie interior isn't too bad too.
Hence, despite its dips into ditz territory at times, Fortune's Treasure is just too infectiously charming. I don't have the heart to pooh-pooh it, because Nellie reminds me of me when I was a youngster and dreaming of adventures. A story that makes me grin stupidly because I see myself in the heroine at times and even get some nostalgic flashbacks of my own (sure signs of one definitely being over the hill) can't be that bad surely.
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