Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13027-3
Historical Romance, 2001
“Pardon me, miss,” he whispered to an angel dressed in Union blue. Hundreds moved around them at the crowded Philadelphia train station. New recruits anxious to go to war, returning heroes, families whispering tearful good-byes and crying heartfelt greetings.
She met his stare with shy green eyes.
“You don’t know me…” He stumbled over words. “There’s no time, and I don’t know if you’ll believe me. But my name is Benjamin and I know I’ve been looking for you all my life.”
A train whistle sounded, rippling the air with impatience.
“I have to board. This is my train.” He smiled down at her, memorizing her face. “But I must have your name before I go. I’ll carry it with me until this war is over. Then I’ll find you. I swear, I’ll find you.” He knew he sounded desperate, but he didn’t care.
“Molly,” she whispered, then shouted above the crowd. “Molly Donivan.”
A soldier running to board pushed him closer to her. “Molly,” he whispered only an inch from her cheek. “Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“I’m starting to,” she answered as her fingers lightly brushed across his heart.
Before he could stop himself, he kissed her boldly, wildly, in front of hundreds of people. Heaven exploded in his mind as she moved into his embrace, and he realized she was kissing him back.
The whistle sounded again. Urgent now. There was no time. He had to go. But for a second he wasn’t sure he could release her.
“Wait for me, Molly Donivan,” he yelled above all the noise. “For I’ll love you until my heart beats no more.”
I have taken the liberty to edit quite a lot from that excerpt above, but really, I find that first meeting between Benjamin “Wolf” Hayward and Molly Donivan one of the sweetest love at first sight meetings I have ever read. It can be corny in the wrong hands, but in Jodi Thomas’s simple warm prose, I am just charmed.
There is a problem though: that incident above takes place during the American Civil War, and Benjamin is a Southern spy in Union territories while Molly is the daughter of an Union general. Oops.
But the bulk of this story takes place eight years later after the war is over. Molly waits for Benjamin to show up, but alas, the man never does. Never mind. All Western heroines are either tavern keepers, lawyers, or doctors, and Molly is a doctor. Or to be more specific, a pharmacist. She prefers mixing drugs to performing amputations. All Western heroes are law enforcers or misunderstood outlaws. Benjamin, now known as Wolf, is a Texas Ranger.
When his prisoner’s brother and partner-in-crime stages a rescue, Wolf ends up injured and ends up under the town doctor’s care. Who turns out to be Molly. Apparently the kiss at the station was so powerful that both parties really were in love, and each couldn’t forget the other. Molly still waits for him, and he still pines for her. How sweet, really.
So why couldn’t Wolf tell Molly that he is the man at the station? I don’t know, the author never lets me know why exactly, and hence the story becomes very frustrating for me. Especially when Wolf has to “pretend” to be Benjamin to sleep with Molly late in the story, which pisses me off because he is just hurting them both unnecessarily.
That issue I have in this story soon drags Twilight in Texas down in my estimation. It is filled with familiar stuff – Wolf is stuck with an eight-year old (adorable) girl he has to enlist Molly to help play nanny to, Molly and Wolf marry out of convenience, for example. But still, the author manages to add in little quirks and moments of humor that make the story seem brand new and fresh. I find myself crying when a secondary character dies. I never even knew the dear coot has gotten under my skin.
Such is the subversiveness of Ms Thomas’s storytelling style. Somehow, she can get away with melodrama, grand speeches before death, and other elements I will usually wince at and call “Corny, corny, corny.” Here, she makes these melodrama seems like the most touching scenes in the world.
Still, I don’t understand Wolf’s motivations or why he felt he couldn’t have Molly even after she has told him how much she pines for Benjamin. Since the main emotional conflict hinges on these issues, I end up feeling frustrated by the story. “Tell her! Tell her!” I keep urging Wolf, but I don’t know. He just couldn’t. I have no idea why, and it ruins my mood tremendously.
Still, for that wonderful scene at the train station, I wouldn’t regret reading this book for the world.