Twilight in Texas
While I’ve not read Jodi Thomas before, I have read reviews of her other books, including those in the related McClain series. All the reviews have been good (some have been great), giving me a pleasant sense of anticipation for Twilight in Texas. So it’s with no small amount of confusion that as I write this review I wonder – did I miss something?
The writer’s style is very nice and she has created a cast of equally nice people. But that’s not the problem. The problem is the plot itself, the premise on which the entire story hinges. It defies credibility and even though I tried to overlook it and just get on with reading the book, the author repeats the premise over and over again through the characters, so there was simply no way to avoid it.
The foundation of the story is that Benjamin Wolf Hayward (Rebel spy dressed as a Union officer) meets Molly Donivan (Union general doctor’s daughter) at a train depot somewhere near the beginning of the Civil War (no date is given). She’s just turned 17. Benjamin sees her and falls instantly in love. He approaches her and tells her he’ll love her forever; will she please wait for him, he’ll come back for her. He kisses her. She responds to his kiss. Yes, she loves him back. He will be her only truly love. She will wait for him.
The problem is, she does, but he doesn’t (come back for her, that is). When Wolf realizes Molly’s a Union general’s daughter and he is but a lowly Johnny Reb spy, he decides she’ll never accept him, so, after the war, he takes off for Texas. No letters. No confession over coffee. No communication at all for nearly ten years (the book says eight, but the math didn’t work out that way).
In the years following the war, Molly’s father died, so she left the North and moved to Austin to open a pharmacy. She might have practiced medicine, and even went to medical school for a time, but feels being a druggist (her term) is more her calling. She wears black, has never married, still loves Benjamin, and has created a dream world in which she and Benjamin live happily.
Molly and Ben (called Wolf) meet again when Wolf (now a captain in the Texas Rangers) is attacked outside Molly’s shop by the brother of the outlaw Wolf is taking to be hanged. Wolf recognizes “his Molly” instantly, but, since Wolf has grown a beard, she does not recognize him. The Big Misunderstanding begins (and continues on until the very last page of the book).
Wolf becomes legal guardian of a little girl, Carrie Ann, niece of the outlaw brothers – who have now escaped. But it’s Molly who takes Carrie Ann in, who is described as being nearly six, but is as tiny as a three-year-old – yet has the vocabulary and speech patterns of a woman of thirty. Because of all this, I never got a really solid feel for Carrie Ann.
Though Wolf and Molly have many encounters, he never tells her who he is (“she’ll hate me”), even when advised to by a character from one of her other books. And Molly never figures it out because Wolf has a beard. Here again is proof of the Clark Kent/Superman Syndrome: thick glasses or a beard completely confuse everyone into thinking these are two separate men.
What’s worse, when Molly is injured and heavily medicated, she keeps calling for Benjamin, so, to be near “his Molly,” Wolf shaves off his beard, and manages to acquire a complete Union officer’s outfit in the heart of post-Civil War Austin so he can be her Benjamin for one night and hold her in his arms while she sleeps. Before morning, he slips away again until his beard can grow a little so she won’t recognize him again. I just have to ask, is this flimsy or is it just me?
Somebody’s trying to kill Molly but nobody can figure out why. Her store gets burned down, so she asks Wolf to marry her in name only (because she will only love Benjamin as long as she lives), but she needs Wolf’s name and position as Ranger to keep her safe while she rebuilds her business. This turn of plot didn’t ring true at all. It was not in Molly’s good soldier, independent character to do this, but do it she does, which was just another plot device that didn’t work for me.
Now, here’s the surprise: It is to this author’s credit that I liked this book in spite of its paper thin premise. Yes, I did, can you believe it? A man and a woman share a kiss ten years earlier and vow eternal love to the point that neither ever gets on with their lives. It was a three-minute encounter for cripes sake! But I liked Ephraim, Uncle Orson, Granny Gravy, Josh, Early, and Charlie. If it just hadn’t been for that illogical initial premise, I would have enjoyed this book much, much more. The secondary characters are really nicely drawn, human, and sweetly sympathetic. Molly and Ben/Wolf (no, he’s not part Indian) are a solid match, so I kept shaking my head thinking, why did the author chose to set it up this way? If only, if only, if only …
If you’ve read and enjoyed Jodi Thomas in the past, you’ll probably want to read this book too. I guess if you can get past the set up, you’ll be doing better than I. In spite of my misgivings about Twilight in Texas, I do plan on reading at least one of this author’s other books; she has piqued my interest with her simple, straightforward style and comfortable characters, so if you can consider that a recommendation, please do.
|Review Date:||March 17, 2001|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||American Civil War | Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Reconstruction era | Texas | Western romance|