The Last Man in Town
The Last Man in Town has a cute premise: the town of Maple Falls, Minnesota has been stricken by the gold bug, and Lucas Garrett is the only young man in town who hasn’t left for Colorado. Basically the book is an enjoyable one, with a hero and heroine who are good friends before they become lovers. It’s a little slow in places, but otherwise it’s a charming read.
The book begins with the besieged Lucas sneaking out his window so he can escape the attentions of an amorous woman. When the men of Maple Falls first left, Lucas enjoyed his status as the town Lothario, but now he finds himself strangely exhausted. After he escapes from his home, he sneaks into the room of his best friend – Priscilla Wentworth. Priscilla and Lucas have been the best of friends for nearly twenty years, and he knows she’ll help him with his problem. He figures the townswomen will give him some relief if he pretends to be engaged to Priscilla. She agrees on one condition – he must help her to find a husband, which is no small task in a town with no men.
When the people of Maple Falls seem a little dubious about the “engagement,” Lucas and Priscilla share a very public kiss. Though it was meant for show, neither of them can stop thinking about it. As Lucas and Priscilla continue to play out their charade, they are surprised to discover that their feelings for each other go far beyond friendship. But both of them have misgivings. Lucas’s father was a cruel, philandering man who made his mother’s life miserable, and Lucas has always sworn never to marry lest he repeat his father’s mistakes. Priscilla knows that Lucas is not a the same man his father was, but since he has always had an extremely active sex life, she wonders if he can stay faithful to one woman. And then both of them are afraid that if they give into their feelings they will ruin their friendship forever.
The friendship between Lucas and Priscilla is what I enjoyed most about this book. When Lucas climbs in her bedroom window and she awakens in the beginning of the book, the first words out of her mouth are, “Oh, it’s just you.” The reader gets to watch the couple go from complete familiarity with each other, to uncertainty, and back again. Plots involving good friends who become lovers are a lot of fun; too bad there aren’t more of them.
In some ways, this book has a very “Americana” type feel, and one might expect the love scenes to be a little tame. They aren’t though. While there are only two love scenes of any length, they are quite detailed, and there is an emphasis on sexual attraction throughout the book. Readers who are offended by strong language should also be warned that Lucas swears – a lot.
While I enjoyed the friendship between the characters, at times I got a little impatient with them. It takes quite a while for them to really act on their feelings, and even longer for them to realize their relationship will work. Fortunately, Lucas’s very romantic proposal is worth the wait.
Law obviously set the book in 1860 to coincide with the Colorado Gold Rush, but it feels a lot more like an Americana book set in 1880. The history is definitely wallpaper here. While there are no outright errors, I found it odd that none of the characters ever mentioned the political situation dividing the country at the time. Lincoln’s election comes and goes without mention. While I wouldn’t expect a book set in Minnesota to have the same political focus as one set in South Carolina, it still seems strange that the characters didn’t even notice that the country was falling apart.
Still, The Last Man in Town is a cute, cozy kind of read – with some steamy love scenes on the side. If you don’t mind waiting a little while for Lucas and Priscilla to figure out they can be together, then you’ll probably enjoy this tale of two friends who fall in love.