Scrooge Wore Spurs
Maybe I’m really the Scrooge here, but it would be hard to find a more nauseating pile of sappy sweetness than this latest effort by Janet Dailey. However, you certainly can’t accuse anybody of false advertising, because when you title a book Scrooge Wore Spurs, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get: cute kids; a lovable, but taciturn hero; and, of course, a scrappy heroine to bring everyone together. Still, Dailey goes too, too far in that her hero isn’t “lovable, but taciturn” – he’s downright mean.
Eben (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more) MacCallister has 60 days to come up with a few hundred grand to save the ranch. (Yep, that’s right, I said, save the ranch.) On the heels of that bad news, he learns that his long estranged sister has died and left to his care her four adorable children – a seven year-old boy, two four year-old twin girls, and a baby boy still in diapers.
Turns out Eben is even meaner than the real Ebeneezer. When the kids arrive, he immediately starts planning just how to get rid of them. And, unfortunately, his less than subtle efforts are more than apparent to the oldest boy. Never mind that anybody would have compassion for children who just lost their parents, the only thing that matters to Eben is money, money, money – specifically how he’s going to come up with the money he needs to save the ranch. (That’s right, save the ranch.)
Of course, just about this time Maddie, our scrappy and adorable heroine, makes her appearance. Some years ago, Eben and Maddie were an item, and when Eben refused to marry her (money again, specifically, his lack of it), she eventually married a rich older man. Now that she’s a widow, Maddie has bought an expensive resort ranch in the neighborhood.
Maddie loves kids. Maddie doesn’t have kids. Maddie thinks Eben’s attitude to the kids sucks. (It does.) Well, do I have to go any further here? Maddie shows Eben how to love the kids and melts the heart of the ice cold Scrooge-like rancher.
One thing I did appreciate about this book was that Maddie is 40. She’s also the best thing in the story. Scrooge . . . uh, I mean Eben . . . was such an overdrawn caricature that it’s impossible to view him for even one moment as a real person. And the kids? They’re cute, but I just don’t think that kids facing this kind of tragedy (the loss of both their parents so abruptly) are an appropriate subject for a lightweight romance novel. And this one is so lightweight that it practically floats away when you’re trying to read it.
I’ll admit here that I have little to no tolerance for sap. In fact, it’s fair to say that I hate it. But I do enjoy a sweet story that is kind and gentle at its heart. Equally, I can also assure you that my eyes are far from dry when it comes to that angel bell scene in It’s a Wonderful Life. As a discerning reader knows, there is a difference between telling a touching story and employing a jackhammer approach to manipulating a reader’s emotions.
This year when I’m looking for something to get me in the Christmas spirit, I think I’ll head to the real Christmas Carol. It gets me every time.