Beneath A Silver Moon
At the end of this book, I was almost in tears. Not because it was particularly touching, but because I was so happy it was finally over. That’s hardly a promising way to start a review, I know, but, unfortunately, it’s an honest one.
Sinclair Readford arrives in Ghost Horse Gulch, in Montana Territory, unannounced and ininvited, to visit an Aunt Matilda, whom she’s never met before. All she knows is that when she found letters from “Aunt Tilly” in the attic, she was enraged at the fact that neither her absent father nor her recently deceased mother had ever told her she had an aunt – and so she decided that, while her father was off in Egypt for a business trip, she would take a train West to meet this Aunt for herself. She arrives at the Blue Willow Hotel for Young Ladies, which, predictably, turns out to be a rather less savory type of establishment – not that Sinclair figures out that it’s a brothel without having to be beaten over the head with evidence. Anyway, Aunt Tilly is nowhere to be found, but an eeeevil man by the name of Hank Borscht, who now seems to be running the place, decides she’d make a lovely addition to the staff, so he locks her in a room in her underwear, with the explicit intent of coming back later to “sample the goods.” In classic (read: cliched) escapee fashion, Sinclair twists the bedclothes into a makeshift rope, and lowers herself out the window, only to find the rope too short. Nevertheless, when she falls, it’s naturally into the arms of a handsome cowboy who, miracle of miracles, just happens to be in need of a young woman to come and take care of his orphaned, “tetched” little sister, Madison. And apparently, he’s too desperate to be choosy.
Jefferson McCloud is desperate to find someone to take care of his sister, desperate enough that he’s come to Town, in the middle of the night for some reason, to find someone, anyone to take the job. When a woman in her underclothes falls from the side of the Blue Willow, kicking his horse into a frantic gallop, it’s apparently enough to convince him that she’d be a good influence on his disturbed young sibling. So, he takes her home, retrieves her clothes (without issue, apparently, despite the blatant, larcenous interest that the less-than-scrupulous inhabitants of the Blue Willow have taken in her belongings), and basically bends to her every whim, despite the fact that every time he does something nice for her (and frequently when he doesn’t), she finds some insignificant reason to fly into a screaming, insult-flinging rage. Perhaps he finds this charming. Lucky him – I certainly didn’t. But he continues to take care of her, including rescuing her from any number of her own idiotic schemes that invariably go wrong. And he falls in love. Don’t ask me why.
As you can tell, I didn’t much like Sinclair. She’s spoiled, ungrateful, dumber than a brick, and downright bitchy. Whenever anyone attempts to help her, she insults them. Naturally, they respond to this behavior by giving her respect. They also think she’s smart, despite the fact that she continually does basically the most stupid possible thing at every intersection. She takes everything Jefferson says or does the wrong way, blows everything out of proportion, and pulls strange, non sequiturish complaints out of the thin air or her imagination, then screams at him for them. He apparently doesn’t find this strange, nor does anyone else. And then, completely incongruously, she displays her “I’m a selfless, helpful heroine” side by doing her best (and naturally succeeding) to heal young Maddie, and teach cowhand Ollie to read along the way. All the while, she treats everyone else like dirt, and they love her for it. Personally, I just wanted to pump her full of Midol and Prozac, and assign her a permanent keeper. Despite her claims of intelligence and independence, she should never be let out alone – as several instances in the plot amply prove.
Meanwhile, there’s Jefferson. It’s hard to know what to make of him, since we never really see him come together as a character – not good for the hero of a romance novel. All we really know is that he seems to like abuse, and when it becomes convenient, he develops a classic tortured-hero-for-no-good-reason side, to move the plot along. Mostly, I just felt bad for him.
Aside from the huge character problem, the plot’s a little hole-y. We know that Aunt Tilly is Sinclair’s mother Althea’s sister, but we also know that Sinclair’s parents are both extreme upper-crust types in Philadelphia – so how then did Althea’s sister end up a madam in Montana? Why do the inhabitants of the Blue Willow defend Hank when they like Tilly so much better? When Sinclair arrives at Jefferson’s home, we know she has friends back home, and a father who will return to Philadelphia in a few months. She only intended to come to Montana for a brief visit, yet once she get to the ranch, she never once thinks of going home or anywhere else again. Nor does she ever discuss the issue of payment with Jefferson. Instead, she runs hot and cold with him, with the seeming expectation that they will eventually be married. Even more confusingly, he’s not at all fazed by this behavior. The logic of this book seems to be that there is none. And there’s nothing good enough about this story to make us try to look past that fact.
This book gets as strong a negative recommendation as I can give. Granted, it’s this author’s debut, and I tried to be extra patient under those circumstances, but Sinclair ate up that patience quickly. Unless heroines who are spunky to the point of brain death, and bitchy to the point of justifiable homicide are your thing, pass this one up. It’s enough to make you demand not just your money back – you’ll want those long, valuable hours of your life back, too.