Silver Lining
Grade : B

Maggie Osborne is one of those authors that doesn't always get a lot of attention, even though she consistently produces high quality books. Her characters are rarely rich or flashy; in fact, her heroes and heroines are often misfits who have never even dreamed that they might find romance. Louise "Low" Downe, the heroine of Silver Lining fits this mold perfectly.

The book opens with Low Down nursing half the men in the mining town of Piney Creek, Colorado through a horrible small pox epidemic. Although she's exhausted from her efforts, she doggedly comforts, soothes, and bullies the men into getting better. When it's all over, the men who are still alive are so grateful that they throw a party for Low Down and offer to fulfill one dream for her. They figure she'll ask for a house, or a sack of gold. But Low Down wants only one thing: a baby.

Since Low Down has been panning for gold for months without a bath, the men are not exactly eager to sleep with her. However, they are determined to discharge their debt to her, so all the single men line up and draw marbles from a bag. The man who draws a marble scratched with a X has to do the deed. Max McCord is the lucky man, and before he knows it, a preacher insists that he not only sleep with Low Down, but marry her as well. Max owns a ranch on the Colorado plains, and has only been in Piney Creek for the summer, sowing some wild oats. Since his own wedding to another woman is already scheduled to take place in two weeks, marrying Low Down is the last thing he wants to do. But she saved his life and he knows the other men are counting on him, so he goes through with it.

By the time Low Down is married, she already regrets voicing her desire for a baby. The embarrassment of the marble-drawing hurt her pride, and she knows Max is in love with his fiance‚ back home. Besides, she wanted a baby, not a husband. But although she immediately offers to divorce him or just leave, Max won't hear of it. They decide to return home to his ranch in Ft. Hauser. There Max will attempt to get her pregnant, and after he does, then they'll get that divorce. They stop in Denver so Low Down can get cleaned up and purchase some dresses to replace the men's clothes she has been wearing.

When they arrive at Max's ranch, he introduces Low Down as his wife Louise. His family is not exactly pleased to meet her, and Louise knows she's not good enough for them. Then Max rides into town to face his fiancee, Philadelphia, and he learns the disastrous news that she's pregnant with his child. Both families decide that honor demands that Max's brother must marry Philadelphia, and everyone is left to deal with the aftermath of all these decisions.

You can probably guess much of what happens here. Naturally Max will fall in love with his own wife and realize that the day he drew that marble was the luckiest day of his life. However, the depth of the characters keeps the book from becoming too predictable. When Max first marries Low Down, he (and the reader) can hardly believe the marriage will ever turn into a love match. Watching the aptly named Low Down gradually transform into a woman named Louise who is beloved by her husband and his family is miraculous, and yet believable at the same time. Osborne expertly breathes life into Louise; she feels like a real person with whom anyone can sympathize. Max also is an honorable hero who is worthy of respect. He resents Louise at the beginning, but of course comes to realize in time how lucky he was to avoid marriage to Philadelphia. These are the type of well-drawn characters Maggie Osborne is known for, and they don't disappoint.

Originally, I was sure I was reading an all-time keeper - and then Philadelphia was introduced. Whereas Max and Louise fairly oozed authenticity, Philadelphia seemed to be straight out of Hollywood - a starlet auditioning for the hackneyed role of "other woman." She was vicious, scheming, and selfish. In another book I might have been able to accept such a character at face value, but frankly Philadelphia seemed like a cop-out. An author of Osborne's talents is capable of better.

Fortunately, every single other character (including Philadelphia's father, who is something of a villain) is terrific. They more than make up for the stereotypical Philadelphia. Louise/Low Down is a very special character, and watching her gain confidence and interact with Max's family is a real treat. Readers who have come to depend on Maggie Osborne for unusual characters and thoughtful conflicts will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Blythe Smith
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 13, 1999

Publication Date: 01/2000

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Recent Comments …

  1. What kept me reading was the sheer unpredictability of the storyline. I knew David’s and Chelsea’s paths would cross again…

Blythe Smith

I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.
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