Monday, May 26, 2008

Forgiving by LaVyrle Spencer ****

Forgiving is another of LaVyrle Spencer's Americana series - set in the 1870s in the Dakota territory. And it's another one where Spencer creates characters that grabbed my heart and squeezed until I was sure there would never be anyone happy ever again. Arg, why does she do that??

The heroine is Sarah, a 25-year-old spinster coming to Deadwood by train to find her sister Addie who ran away from home 5 years earlier at the age of 16. She, like some of Spencer's other heroines, has been with her widowed father and hasn't had a real chance for love. Bookish, plain and independent, she's been assisting her father in the printing business, and now that he's dead, she's brought her printing press to Deadwood to start a newspaper.

She finds Addie working in a brothel; Addie doesn't want to see her or have anything to do with her.

Enter the hero: Marshal Noah Campbell. They meet at the brothel where Sarah learns he's been a customer of the sister. He's supposed to uphold the law in this newly created city, and Sarah manages to break a couple right off the bat. And there starts their relationship - as adversaries.

The secondary romance is the sister, Addie, and her beau from before, Robert. After Sarah lets Robert know Addie is there, working in a brothel, and that she doesn't want to see him, Robert comes to Deadwood as well, to start a business and work on winning back Addie.

There are several complications, and one is that Sarah has carried a secret torch for Robert all along. Another is the dearth of eligible females in the area, making Sarah attractive to several men, including the hero's younger brother. But somehow Noah comes around to realizing his own attraction to Sarah, and doesn't waste much time sparking and courting - he just flat out asks her to marry him.

And there is the mystery of why Addie ran away and became a whore - one that I guessed early on, but was still shocked when it was revealed. In fact, shocked both times it's revealed because first she tells only Robert. Robert assumes she has told Sarah and brings it up in front of Sarah and Noah after they have set a wedding date. It's shocking enough to Sarah that she sinks into a depression, and the wedding is called off.

Spencer often manages to make her heroines way too stubborn for their own good, and although I understood how Sarah could undergo a change of mind, it was still heart breaking to read and suffer through. In fact, the secret seems to affect Sarah even more than Addie in the end. Well, not really, I guess, since Addie was a whore for 5 years because of it - but she manages to heal and recognize her love for Robert anyway, while Sarah doesn't seem to be able to shake it off until the very, bitter end. Whew. I knew there had to be a HEA, but it was slow and long in coming, and heart wrenching all at once.

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