Continuing with the 2019 Phonics Challenge:
T for time — Read a futuristic or time-travel romance.
For this reading prompt, I picked up an old-school romance from 1997, Linda Lael Miller’s My Outlaw.
This story focuses on 30 year old Keighly Barrow, a sculptress and gallery owner living in L.A. in the late 1990’s who is engaged to a surgeon. Despite these ties, Keighly still feels drawn to her grandmother’s old, grand, dilapidated house in Redemption, Nevada. As a child, she would often stand in the ballroom of the house and from time to time see a young boy about her own age in the wall length mirror. The boy was dressed in western clothing from the late 1800’s and stood in an old saloon where cowboys drank and ladies in garish colors danced and entertained. Not only did she see the boy, but he saw her. Even though they couldn’t speak to each other, they managed basic communications through signs and she was able to learn that the boy’s name was Darby Elder. Over the years, as Keighly grew, she saw the boy less and less especially after she went off to boarding school. However, she never forgot Darby and felt a special connection that she couldn’t relinquish. Years later, Keighly inherits the house from her grandmother. Although her fiancé wants her to sell it, she finds she can’t, especially when she suddenly sees Darby in the mirror again – a full grown man. This puts the adult Keighly on a mission to find out who Darby was and what happened to him. With the help of the town librarian and a distant ancestor of Darby’s, Keighly learns more than she bargained for, 1) that somehow Keighly becomes Darby’s wife and 2) that Darby dies that very year, leaving a pregnant Keighly behind with his estranged family in the late 1880’s.
Although I found the plot of My Outlaw incredibly busy and I wasn’t always on the same page as the heroine, I was interested enough in the story to see how the author would resolve everything. Instead of a “simple” time-travel plot, the two lead characters end up bouncing back and forth between the two centuries in ways that weren’t totally consistent. (Even though time travel is not a reality, if you have it in your story, it should follow some rules.) Furthermore, I found it hard to believe that the characters were able to avoid suspicion as to who they were and how they ended up in the wrong century! To be honest, besides the time travel, the 1880’s plot – in particular – just appeared to be a straight western and the fact that a strange woman just showed up one day barely registered.
Another little thing that put me off is Keighly’s attitude towards her former fiancé, who she seemed to see as just someone to sire the children she badly wanted regardless of the fact that she didn’t really love him. And then, the moment she’s in the arms of her true lover in the 1800’s, she immediately decides that she’s pregnant. She just senses it without any verification. This is the one part of the story that felt very old-school to me since many romances in the day focused on children equaling happiness for a woman. The upside to this book is that the author didn’t make the heroine’s former significant other out to be a bad guy and, in fact, he’s allowed to be a hero as well and acquire his own heroine. In fact, other than the most obvious baddies, most of all the other important characters were fully formed human beings.
Anyway, everyone had their happy ending, but I think the plot took a very convoluted route on the way to finish. I would give this book a B-/C.
The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 14 down, 5 to go (A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, S …)
The Phonics Challenge – 8 down, 11 to go