No Place for a Lady
You say you’re in the mood sink your teeth into a Big Misunderstanding? How about a wagonload of them. You say you believe in wild and unlikely coincidences? We have a couple of doozies. You hankerin’ for a good kidnapping or two? Well, step right up. Oh, and we mustn’t forget several incidents of mistaken identity. In addition, we have a virginal young woman whose naked breasts are fondled by a man she has known only for a couple of hours, whom she believes to be not only a murderer, but a kidnapper and the father of her employer’s illegitimate child. But she’s so enthralled by his touch, she simply cannot resist enjoying herself, wanton that she must be. I wouldn’t have read past this point (which occurs early in the book), except I had to in order to write this review.
Okay, if you can get past the first few chapters and take a lot for granted, then the rest comes together well enough to handle. The book begins with Molly Riordan helping her employer, Lady Elizabeth Summersby, pack for a trip to America. It seems Lady Elizabeth has found herself in the family way, due to a masquerade ball, a darkened carriage, and lust. How dark was that carriage? Well, it was so dark that neither Lady Elizabeth nor the rogue in question saw each others’ faces. All Lady E has to go on is a name: Dirk Ballinger of Colorado, U.S.A. Her father wrote to Dirk, who has agreed to marry the lady.
Maid Molly wants to go to America for a wholly different reason. The Irish lass wants to find the da who abandoned her years ago as he sought riches in the gold fields, but from whom Molly has not heard so much as a peep in all this time. Molly doesn’t tell anybody about wanting to find her father, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why she kept it a secret for so long.
At any rate, Molly and Elizabeth go to America and take a stagecoach to the Ballinger Ranch. But wait, the coach driver is Irish, maybe he knows Molly’s father. Well, can you believe it? In all of the vast U.S., whom should the first person be that Molly runs into but her long-lost father. What a coincidence! But da doesn’t ‘fess up, and is soon killed by a gang of kidnappers who have come to steal Elizabeth away and hold her for ransom. Dirk Ballinger is a very wealthy guy. Unfortunately, he is not the baby’s father. In fact, he’s never met Elizabeth. The dastardly dude is Dirk’s illegitimate half-brother, Ray Lovejoy.
Dirk shows up in time to rescue Molly, but with the coach driver’s last breath, he tells Dirk that Molly is Lady Elizabeth, thereby hoping to ensure for her a better life; the life he never gave her. Of course, Molly is not seven months pregnant, which makes Dirk angry, thinking he’s been duped.
So, Dirk thinks that Molly is Lady Elizabeth. Dirk wonders what happened to said baby. Molly, because of Dirk’s green eyes, thinks that he is the man who impregnated Elizabeth, then kidnapped her, allowed the murder of the coach driver, and now refuses to believe that Molly is not Lady Elizabeth. Ray doesn’t realize that the woman he kidnapped is the same woman he seduced when in England using his half-brother’s name. Lady Elizabeth doesn’t realize that Ray is the man she had sex with; she thinks it was Dirk, whom she has never actually met.
There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, and even after all this ridiculous plotting, the story does move along at a brisk pace. There’s a lot of sexual tension between Dirk and Molly, most of which is inappropriate early on. And in how many books have you heard the heroine exclaim, “I want to experience physical intimacy with him once, just once. I’ll take the memory of that one time with me forever into my lonely, lonely, poor lonely future.” Or words to that effect, as this is not an actual quote from the book, but reminiscent of literally dozens of similar statements from a myriad of other romances.
Ultimately, I found the secondary love story, between Ray and Elizabeth much more interesting than Dirk and Molly’s. Ray is a much more intriguing character than his brother. Dirk and Molly do have one very nicely done love scene that sort of redeems them. The story spends too much time on everybody doubting everybody else, and there are too many secrets that could have and should have been revealed many years ago. There’s a bizarre villain who, once revealed, had me wondering how he pulled it off. Oh, and if a middle-aged woman in 1888 Colorado ever used the word “mantra,” I’ll eat my Dale Evans Official Cowgirl hat.
Super-fans of this author may find a lot more to like here than I did. While No Place for a Lady isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, the basic plot was just too outlandish for me to get past.