Midnight Silk is set in Texas during the Civil War, a pleasant change from historical England. It features a road romance between a planter’s daughter and the overseer’s son who has loved her for years. I wanted to enjoy it, but was unable to muster any enthusiasm for such a bland pair as the hero and heroine of Midnight Silk.
Bowie Beckett grew up at Taylor Hall, a large cotton plantation in Texas where his father serves as the overseer. As children he and Maria Taylor, the owner’s daughter, played together, but she is socially far above him. At the beginning of the Civil War, Maria’s brother and Bowie’s father enlisted, but Bowie stayed on to run the plantation.
Bowie’s become a capable wrangler, adept at getting the Taylor cotton to market in Mexico and eluding the Cotton Bureau (an organization that takes a percentage for the Confederate Cause). Bureau head Lance Webster is in lust with Maria and constantly asks her out. Bowie is suspicious, but Maria pooh-poohs everyone’s concerns and goes out with the man. Lance drugs her wine and attempts to rape her, but Bowie comes to the rescue. Maria gets all duded up in pants and joins Bowie and his wranglers on their trip to Mexico. The plan is that Bowie will drop her off at her aunt’s. But naturally things don’t go as planned.
How do you solve a problem like Maria? Seemingly she could not decide whether to act sensible or silly. One minute she was pouting, tossing her hair, stamping her feet, and being quite the spoiled belle. Then she’d turn right around and help pick cotton, nurse a wounded man, and drive a wagon full of cotton through the desert. Then she’d pout, toss her hair, and stamp her foot again. Maria’s attitude toward Bowie infuriated. Although she loved him, told everyone she loved him, and mused to herself how she loved him, whenever she spoke with him, she was haughty and snippy. She donned her haughty, spoiled belle persona whenever with Bowie, except at the end of the book.
I can sum up Bowie in one phrase: “I’m not worthy.” He was as class-conscious as any British peasant faced with a Duke. Never mind that he ran the plantation, he was Not Her Kind. Bowie was a very bland character, one of those romance heroes I can’t picture in my mind (not a good thing). The sexual tension between him and Maria was very, very tepid, and I kept waiting for things to catch fire. They never did – even the love scene was bland. I’ve read any number of kisses-only Regency Romances with more heat than this.
The book was smoothly written, but had one big problem – phonetic dialect! House slave Vespasia speaks in deep Gone-With-The Windese, and Mexican characters talk like thees. Phonetic dialogue is all but impossible to pull off, and I wish authors would not even attempt it. The book has a leisurely pace until the end, when Bowie and Maria run into betrayal, treachery, and gunfire. Then there is an epilogue that sums it all up for any reader who might have dozed off. Although western romances set in the Civil War are rare these days, all but the most stalwart fans of the period should probably pass on this one.