Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hell for Leather -- Malloy Family Spin-Off -- by Beth Williamson

In addition to telling the stories of the various members of the Malloy Family of Cheshire, Wyoming, author Beth Williamson has turned her spotlight once again on a character that played a prominent role in Trevor & Adelaide Malloy's romance.

Several months before the beginning of this story, Adelaide Burns (Malloy) had her life threatened by the appearance of a gun-for-hire named Kincaid who had been brought to Cheyenne in order to kill her(as told in Williamson's Malloy Family novel, The Gift). Her arch enemy was attempting to hire him, but Kincaid, for some reason, would have nothing to do with the scheme. In fact, he seemed to want to throw himself into any plan that would defeat the efforts of the owner of the Silver Spittoon. In the course of the story, Kincaid became friends with Trevor Malloy's brother Brett and agreed to return with him to Cheshire where he became Brett's righthand man on the Square One Ranch. However, after the best four months of his life, Kincaid realized that his past as a gunman was putting his only friend in danger, and he left Cheshire in an effort to begin a new life.

This book tells the story of how Kincaid "died" and became Cade Brody. The guns were buried, the past was hopefully put aside, and into Eustace, New Mexico, rode a lone stranger who had purchased a small property about two hours out of town. Brody's senses were immediately assaulted by the Widow Edmonds who, together with her sister, owned and operated the general store. Following that initial meeting, their attraction grows through a series of events so that they become sexually involved. It is a very small town, so their affair does not go unnoticed, and rather than exist as an invisible resident hidden in the area surrounding Eustace, Cade Brody's name is on everyone's lips as well as unanswered speculation about who he might be, why he was in that area, and what he was really all about. This is NOT how he had planned to live!

This is a quiet and sensitive story of redemption. It is about discovering the power of respect, friendship, and love; it is about the possibility of leaving the darkness and shadows of the past and making an act of will which will cause one to walk into the light. It is about overcoming the harsh realities of lives that are forged in the crucible of hate and prejudice, making positives out of almost overwhelming negatives. It seems each of the characters which exist within Eustace are carrying burdens of past hurts and protecting inward holes created by loss.

I think you will like Cade Brody and resonate with his need to find something worth living for. I think you will be touched with the plight of Jeremiah and Bernice, both "accidental" births and who have been left to grow up nearly by themselves. I think each reader will recognize themselves in one or more of these characters -- the very short person who acts as the town doctor; the injured and scarred sister whose fears keep her powerless and hidden; the saloon owner who has come through incredible personal tragedy but doesn't seem to be able to move on; the mill owner who burns for the young widow and refuses to accept her decision to remain unwed; the mill worker whose own demons short-circuit his desires to be a true father to his son; you will cheer on the gutsy widow who is not fooled by the grumpy, seemingly cruel stranger whose fear of intimacy almost negates the love that is blooming between them.

This is not necessarily the strongest story Ms Williamson has written about these characters, but I think it is one of the most poignant. Unlike the Malloy Family Series there is not the strong overt presence of family; yet it is here in the open acceptance of the saloon owner and his mother who become family to a homeless child. There are not overt instances of strong bonds here, but underneath the surface are the evidences that friendship and caring can and do overcome the wounds of the past. Somehow in a community that seems completely disconnected, this new-life seeking gunman finds a home, a sense of place, and a path that can finally put to "death" the emptiness and failure of the past.

I think Williamson fans will like this book. I think those who have never read one of her books will like this book also. I think my greatest factor in liking this story is the very fact that to my way of perceiving, every character is broken in some fashion and together they manage to stumble along in their living and find some positive reasons to keep on keeping on. I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

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