Catherine Anderson takes a romance staple and draws it out in this novel until readers will want to stomp it out of its misery. An orphaned, unmarried woman raising a child pretends to be married and pretends the child is hers, not her deceased sister’s, and takes these lies to unbelievable lengths in Lucky Penny.
When small town sheriff David Paxton is given a stack of letters by a Denver postmaster who is happy to finally have located him in No Name, Colorado, David is shocked to read that he’s a father of a six-year-old girl.
Rather than deny that he’s the father, David, who was a hellion in his youth, admits there were times he’d had too much to drink and could have fathered a child with a prostitute. So gutting up and doing the manly thing, he sends money to the woman and little girl, then tracks them down, ready to marry the woman and become a real father.
Brianna O’Keefe with her sister’s child Daphne, living hand to mouth (often eating from garbage piles), is horrified when David Paxton, the man she made up and sent letters to in order to save face, shows up.
Now what would a normal, ordinary woman do? Confess to David that he’s not the girl’s father, and explain why she kept the child and why she needed the subterfuge, right?
Nope. Not in this book. At first, she claims he’s not the David Paxton. He explains that he searched all over Colorado using his lawman connections to find another David Paxton, and he’s the only one in the state.
Besides, David feels sorry for Daphne and her honest excitement at finally getting to know her daddy. As he and the child bond, he becomes more and more adamant that she’s his child. She looks like his mother and she has the birthmark of the Paxtons. Oddly, this is one of the few anomalies that actually make sense at the end of the book.
Brianna goes through lie after lie until finally David has had enough and needs to go home to his ranch and his job as marshal. He finds a judge, who while drunk declares that Daphne is David’s child and to set everyone straight, marries David and Brianna.
Brianna is now truly caught in her lie. David is willing to be a husband and a father, but the virginal Brianna fights him every step of the way. She meets David’s family including his mother whom Daphne resembles down to the family birthmark, and they accept Brianna and Daphne as part of the family.
David is such a good, kind-hearted soul that readers will take to him immediately and the same is true of Daphne. But Brianna, for all her sacrificing, is harder to like since she’s deceitful and demanding and so starched I wanted to smack her. Why David takes to her is a mystery, just as why he finally comes to believe her is beyond me.
The lucky penny? When David first meets Daphne, they both reach for a discarded penny on the ground. It becomes their lucky penny and pops up now and again in the narrative.
Anderson’s fluent style needs an editor and the plot needs trimming when Brianna is nothing but a fount of lies. Still Lucky Penny isn’t a complete waste for those willing to wade through 432 pages.