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Silver Lining Hardcover – Large Print, 1 Dec 2001
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A smallpox epidemic hits the camp and heroine Low Down (Louise Downes) is the only one to stand up to the plate and nurse those stricken, Max being one of them. Many die but those men surviving are so grateful to Low Down that they ask her to name her greatest wish in life and they'll give it to her in appreciation. Turns out that the only thing Low Down wants is to have a baby. But poor Low Down is so unkempt, unfeminine, and unappealing that nobody want to provide the stud service and all the unmarried survivors have to draw for the "privilege".
Well, of course, it's Max, who has a fiancee at home and does this under protest. Not only that but the preacher of the camp insists that a marriage must take place before any procreation. Low Down doesn't want to be married either so they agree to divorce once she becomes pregnant. Since it's time for Max to be heading home, he has to take Low Down along because... well, you know why. And you also know where this whole thing is headed and, of course, it gets there. It's fun to watch the transformation of Low Down into Louise Downes, a very admirable, hardworking, caring and physically attractive woman and to watch the development of Max and Louise's relationship. Lots of humorous situations along the way.
But here's the part I did not like and there may be SPOILERS from now on in this review. The characters are not deeply drawn and one, in particular, is quite the caricature: Philadelphia Houser, the Other Woman. She is engaged to Max and they were to be married as soon as he returned from his stint at the mining camp so they anticipated their marriage vows before he left. Well, we're supposed to hate her and not understand what on earth Max saw in her.
But here's the thing: Max is 31 and Philadelphia 20. She has grown up without a mother and with a wealthy banker father who thinks taking care of her is to supply her with whatever she wants. So she's spoiled and willful and immature and selfish. I didn't like her either but found Max's treatment of her unfair. From what I understand in my reading, that night they had sex was her first sexual experience. A sexually-experienced older man has sex with a very young woman yet everyone in the story feels that she is as much to blame for this or even more to blame.
And Philadelphia's evilness is piled on more and more as the book progresses. I'm surprised she doesn't have horns sticking out of her beautiful head. And we keep getting hit on the head about Max's "honorableness". Oh, really? Didn't he have a commitment to Philadelphia and shouldn't he have insisted more at the mining camp that he could not marry or even service Low Down? Horrible as Philadelphia was and as horrible as her actions in his absence, what he did is not honorable, IMO. It does, however, make for an entertaining romance between Low Down and Max.
IMO, for this romance to be perfect, there would have been no Other Woman or a less horrid one. There would have been no premarital sex or pregnancies involved. Just the romance of Max and Louise could have been very lovely and warm-fuzzies-producing and wouldn't have left me so conflicted about events in the story. But, in spite of what I consider its flaws, this is an enjoyable romance, somewhat like an 1880s rom-com with serious moments interspersed.
Well, this was something.
Silver Lining was full of some belly-aching amusement, a slow-burning romance, human relationships, and life on a ranch in the 1800’s.
I’ve been enjoying these oldie Western romances: long, but layered stories that really drag you into a different world. Something that contemporary romances are really lacking these days being more focused on sex than developed relationships.
So while I enjoyed—and was sucked into—this story, there were just some mechanics I didn’t love.
1. The hero pining after a different woman until a good sixty percent.
2. The heroine’s lack of femininity. I’m not a prim and proper lady myself, but I found this heroine just a little too rough and tumble, and I wasn’t exactly connecting with her the best.
3. The hero did not find the heroine attractive until he falls in love with her.
Even after those things that I do not enjoy, Silver Lining still kept me invested until the end. I was rooting for their happiness, even though it often looked grim.
Low Down is a rough and tumble woman who dresses in men’s clothes (this is the 1800’s) and walks and talks like a man. When she’s the only woman who stays to take care of the men who come down with the pox in their gold mining camp, they offer her anything she wants.
She wants a baby.
All the men pick a marble and the one who gets the lucky one is the unhappy winner of giving Low Down a baby. When the preacher interferes, they realize someone is going to have to marry her, because it was just sinful otherwise.
Max McCord picks the marble.
Let’s just say he wasn’t happy about it, considering he had a woman he loved and was about to marry back home. But his honor as a man wouldn’t allow him to say no.
Meeting his spiteful jilted bride, unexpected news, family drama, blossoming love—and Silver Lining was an interesting yet entertaining historical western that shouldn’t be overlooked.