The Soft Touch
A Soft Touch is a lighthearted historical with entertaining, if rather unlikely, characters and an interesting plot. However, a conflict that is predictable and includes a sort of marriage of convenience as well as the Big Misunderstanding, inconsistencies in the heroine, and stereotypical secondary characters, make this book an average read.
Bear McQuaid is a driven man. His dream is to complete a new railroad line. He and his Irish partner, Halt, have come east to Baltimore to obtain a loan that will enable them to exercise land options they have contracted and secure government grants. Money is all that stands in the way of Bear obtaining his passion, but he is turned down by one banker after another. Finally, Bear makes his proposal to Phillip Vassar, who also turns Bear down, but because Vassar likes what he sees in Bear, he offers help in the form of a recommendation for a good tailor, and a promise to introduce Bear to Diamond Wingate at a party Vassar’s wife is having the following week. Diamond, Vassar assures Bear, is his best chance for obtaining the needed funding.
Diamond Wingate is an immensely wealthy young woman who is renowned for being a soft touch. An avid proponent of Progress, Diamond generously disperses her wealth to inventors and builders, and her investments pay off more often than not. Diamond would be the perfect answer to Bear’s dilemma except for one snag. Before Bear can be properly introduced to Diamond at the Vassars’ party, he meets her in a most unfortunate way at the tailor’s shop. Unaware of her identity, Bear does not make a very good first impression, and sparks fly when they recognize each other at the party. One thing stands in Bear’s favor, though. Before entering the house that night, Bear had rescued Diamond (not knowing who she was) from a man who seemed to be accosting her. This made him the hero of the party before it even began, so Diamond has no choice but to put up with him to some extent.
Diamond is quite willful, doing as she pleases with her wealth despite the objections of her advisors, but she has one major weakness which causes her a great deal of discomfort. She finds it almost impossible to say “no.” As a result, she is unofficially engaged to three different men at one time – and none of them know about the others, of course. She has not told any of them she will marry them, but she hasn’t been able to say no either. When all three turn up at the Vassars’ party, she is trapped, and uses Bear to escape them. Bear is torn between fury at the situation and compassion for this poor little rich girl who is used by nearly everyone for their own purposes.
Ms. Krahn does a good job of presenting Bear and Diamond in an entertaining manner, and their antics are funny. Diamond’s past is drawn in considerably more detail, and Bear’s perceptive insights into her personality and situation offer some explanation of why she is the way she is. The history of the characters is not presented all at once; the reader gains understanding of them gradually. Bear is an extremely attractive hero, strong, compassionate, but always totally masculine. Diamond is admirable as well, though much less consistent. Her strengths are matched with weaknesses that are explained in part by her history, yet are not completely believable. For instance, in one fell swoop, after the Big Misunderstanding, she turns from a woman who cannot even choke out the word no to a woman who won’t say anything but no.
The multitude of secondary characters are colorful, but are mostly stick figures with exaggerated personalities and little or no depth. A fewer number of characters who are more fully developed would make this book far more memorable.
On the plus side, the plot is fast-moving, and takes some turns that help to maintain a reader’s interest. This and likable characters make A Soft Touch a pleasant read for those who don’t mind a bit of predictability.