Summer Moon
by Jill Marie Landis, historical (2002)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-44040-4

For the first few chapters of Summer Moon, I am resigned to stand at the receiving end of an author's throwing the chamber pot of dire, predictable plot thingies out of the window onto my head. This is a Western romance story, and since this is not a braindead tomboy hellion wearing boy's clothes story, it could only mean one other thing. Yes, readers, this is a mail-order bride story.

Of course, our heroine Kate Whittington must be a pathetic, desperate, penniless, homeless orphan. On the other hand, she must also be educated, literate, and economical with a 1800s-PhD in Housekeeping Science. It's just the schools are all fully staffed, I guess. Anyway, we need a heroine who is pathetic and also a supernanny for the kid you know the hero must have. May as well be Kate, oh let's just pinch my nose and get on with the story.

The hero? Reed Benton. Texas guy. Texas. The only state that matters in the whole of America - or is it the only state in existance in Romance Novel America? He has a lousy dead wife. Naturally, this wife is lousy because she wants a house with proper plumbing and lighting, and we all know good women should never aspire to better their lives - pure virtuous heroines only react to circumstances and make martyrs (or nannies - both are interchangeable anyway) out of themselves. So wife dies. And the son is kidnapped by the Comanches. Our hero has found his long-lost son at last, but the son is wild and angry. Never fear, Kate is here!

That is, until Kate arrives at the Benton Promenade and learns that it is Reed's father who plans the whole arranged marriage thing, not Reed. Reed doesn't know her, doesn't care, and doesn't want to bother. But you know women like Kate - put 'em out, clean the house, and he'll love her forever and ever and ever.

Aaaaah. Deep, calming breath please.

Then it happened. I perk up a little: is that Reed actually acknowledging that he have wronged his dead wife with his arrogance and selfishness? Oh, now that's nice. I scratch my head - is that... is that... oh, am I actually sniffling away at that scene? And going all "Awww" when Reed and Kate start bonding over their (predictable and stale) sad, sad pasts? Oh my God, let me check the window and see if it's raining money outside. No money, alas, but wow - Summer Moon is all about the same-old-even-older blues, but the author actually succeeds in weaving in lots of emotionally resonating scenes.

Kate is a Supernanny, but I must say I found her a rather sympathetic character. She's not a fresh character, but dang it, she's a strong, smart woman, and Kate, I feel your pain, really. Reed is a nice grouchy-outside-needing-love-inside kinda gruff guy, he's just like Colin Farrell - all blusters and pretending to be a tough guy, but I have friends in Ireland who know Farrell, and they tell me that Farrell will be the first guy to burst into tears when caught in a pub brawl. Anyway, Reed's like that. He's not that tough at all. He's a grouchy, sweet teddy bear.

I don't like the boy though. I'm sure Daniel or Fast Pony or whatever he calls himself is meant to be a "sad kid" thing in this story, but see, I don't like kids, especially when these kids are whining, acting like brats, or running away left and right. Incidentally, I can't wait until Fast Pony hits puberty and gets really teased bad about that Pony name. His foster daddy is a Horse, he is just a Pony. Aww, snigger.

Anyway, when it comes to originality, this story is riddled with so many tired plot devices that it's like the Swiss Cheese of Western Mail Order Bride Stereotypes. But there's also oodles of emotional richness and characters that come close to attaining two-dimensional substance. I can't say I love this book unconditionally, but I felt something reading Summer Moon. And feeling for a story, if you ask me, is very good indeed.

Rating: 87

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