Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-61168-9
Historical Romance, 2003 (Reissue)
You have no idea how much I want to love Dorothy Garlock’s depression-era romance novels. There is just not enough books set in the fascinating time of American history, and it seems a waste that Dorothy Garlock’s novels set in that era all share the same flaws: lazy characterization, too-broad stereotyping of town life, and villains so ridiculous that they seem like escapees from the local loonybin asylum rather than any genuine threat to the hero and the heroine. Mother Road, alas, is not the book that will turn things in Garlock Land around.
Andy Connors is an “honest” gas station owner in Route 66. It’s 1932, the dawning of the golden age of automobiles. By “honest”, I mean that Andy takes the money of bootleggers and lawmen. Ms Garlock calls him “honest”, I call him “enterprising”. Anyway, Andy gets bitten by a rabid skunk (no, I’m not joking) and now it falls onto Leona, the misunderstood town harlot, to run the station, take care of Andy’s two daughters, and ward off her holy roller brother Virgil’s attempt to “redeem” Leona. Luckily for our Besieged In Backward heroine, our hero HB Yates arrive to help her. He claims that he is indebted to Andy and he is here to repay Andy’s favor. Can Leona trust him? Can he trust her?
Leona is the stereotypical besieged and martyred heroine that is fast becoming an unfortunate staple in this author’s books. HB Yates has money, he is good looking, but he has his own issues – nothing too original there. Unfortunately, the author proceeds to let Virgil overwhelm the story with his cackling and cruel antics and Mother Road soon turns into a perverted Redneck Revival Tent show. It doesn’t help that the bad guys all speak in pidgin accents while the good guys speak in English as we know it. I don’t know how to explain why Leona can speak in grammatically correct English while Virgil speaks like Yosemite Sam’s brain-damaged mutant inbred troll baby.
The town folks of Sayre, Oklahoma are prominently featured in this story and there are quite a number of subplots abounds. Unfortunately, with the author tarring her characters in broad brush strokes so that we have uniformly literate and eloquent good guys on one side and mutant English-mangling redneck hick villains on the other, the characters never come alive to me. Instead, it’s like watching a clone parade march where the good guys all sound and act alike on one side and bad guys that act and sound alike on the other.
A little more realistic characters and a little more subtlety would have improved matters tremendously in Mother Road.