by Deb Stover, historical (2001)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7091-8
No Place For A Lady suffers from many flaws. For one, the plot is a merry-go-round of implausible coincidences. Secondly, I'm sure the author has misplaced the hero Dirk Ballinger somewhere around Tombstone and has to dress up a mule in denims and hope nobody will notice. Thirdly, I've never seen communication break down in such a ridiculous manner before.
In spite of it all, I have a great time. Maybe it's the heroine Molly Riordon's no-nonsense take-no-prisoners nature, or even the shrew Elizabeth Summersby who comes off more amusing than annoying. Heck, even Dirk's half-brother Ray Lovejoy is a hoot and surprisingly adorable secondary hero.
Still think Dirk is a mule though.
The plot, if I can stop snorting to tell it, is this. Lady Elizabeth Summersby is pregnant after a quickie in a carriage one masquerade party a few months ago. Now, she is being married off to Dirk Ballinger, the Preggernator in question. He's a rancher in America, so Elizabeth and her Irish maid Molly is getting ready to cross the ocean.
Molly is happy too, because her long-lost father is in America, and who knows, maybe she can find him.
Her plans go haywire when Elizabeth is kidnapped by a villain, Ray Lovejoy soon after they reach America. Molly recognizes Ray's eyes as Dirk's when Dirk comes into the scene. Meanwhile, the Irish stagecoach driver dies as a result of a shoot-out before telling Molly where her father is, and worse, the driver tells Ray that Molly is Elizabeth. Dirk marries her when Molly is half-unconscious after the shootout. Oops.
And get ready for the revelations. Don't worry, these aren't spoilers. The dead stagecoach driver is Molly's father. Gee, of all the people in America, the first Irishman she meets is her father. What a powerful radar she has, I must say. Secondly, Ray is Elizabeth's Perggernator. They don't recognize each other because... er, the masks at the masquerade, I guess. Dirk is marrying Liz because of family obligations, and he refuses to believe that Molly isn't Elizabeth until too late. And then he still won't tell Molly that he isn't the Preggernator.
By Chapter 4, I am fearing for the worst. It will be so easy for this book to spiral into a Big (and Loud) Misunderstand Siesta for the masochistic. Thankfully, Molly is a decent heroine who puts down Dirk most of the time when Dirk is showing his mule genes. Elizabeth and Ray get into a cute secondary romance thing too, and they almost overshadow the Molly/Mule lovefest were not for Molly's character saving the day. Deb Stover also has an easy style of writing and there are some fine moments of humor. At the end of the day, I am not irritated or exasperated - not once. Instead, I have a great time following the two women's semi-disastrous romp in America.
Yes, the plot is outlandish and convoluted, and the Mule is annoying, but I really like this book despite its flaws. It's all in the name of fun, I guess.
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