Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Gift -- Malloy Family #5 -- by Beth Williamson

Trevor Malloy is a unique and gifted human being who glories in his ability to charm the ladies and who works as hard at getting people to like him as he does at his parents' ranch. He is a "silver-tongued devil" -- a term that has been used repeatedly about him. He loves women, any kind of woman is a pleasure to him and when he sees someone he likes, he spares no effort to charm them into his bed. He is also a demon of a poker player. There is one very large problem, however: Trevor's extra-curricular activities are beginning to impinge on his ranching responsibilities and his brothers and his dad are beginning to chafe from his long absences, his hangovers, and what appears to be a growing irresponsibility. Feeling sorry for himself at all this "persecution," Trevor packs up his saddlebags and leaves home.

Trevor's will-o-the-wisp lifestyle comes to a crashing halt when he encounters Adelaide Burns, a championship quality poker player and owner of Cheyenne's own Last Chance Saloon. Almost before he knows it, Trevor is in debt to Adelaide for $5,000 and she insists that he work off the debt as her employee at the saloon. He believes that he will be indentured to her for over a year. He finds that he is now doing "women's work" and for the first time in his life he begins to respect the mountains of dishes, pots and pans, laundry, cleaning, scrubbing, and household chores that his mother has endured in past years. He is also attracted to his boss, for Adelaide has a full head of stunning red hair and a voluptuous figure to go with it. This ladies' man has met his match!

As is true in all of Williamson's stories, there is a conflict of massive proportion--the owner of the Silver Spittoon, Adelaide's competitor in the saloon world, is bound and determined to run her out of business and to run her out of town. Of course, Trevor is drawn into the fray because of his growing attraction to Adelaide as well as his growing attachment to all the people of the Last Chance, a rather motley crew who have become family to each other. As one who understands the concept of family, Trevor easily becomes a part of this configuration.

The story is classic in many ways and there are not too many twists and turns here, but it is a very interesting book and not at all a waste of time. The relationship between the main characters is spicey and sometimes bawdy, but the growing love between them is winsome and sensitive. There are a few surprises and Williamson always contrives to bring some of those into her story. There are iconic characters here: the grumpy and muscle-bound bartender who is really trying to find a "place" called home, the scowling cook who is really mother to them all, the hired gun Kincaid, who will figure in several of the coming stories, and the various townsfolk who form the backdrop of the story. All are delightful in their own way and Williamson has taken the time to give us characters that have dimension and depth. Most of all, it is a story of how a gifted and caring man finally grows into his maturity and discovers the joys of living as a whole person. The Malloy family makes their appearance and affirms once again that their love for one another is enduring and able to be sustained, no matter the circumstances. I give this novel at 4.5 rating out of 5.

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