Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Reward -- Malloy Family #3 -- by Beth Williamson

Ms Williamson continues on with the saga of the Malloy family but brings us the story of one of the characters who float around the edge of the first two stories--the experience of a bandito named Hermono.
As the bastard son of a Spanish land owner in Texas, Malcolm Ross de Zarza returns from his 15 years as one who has lived outside the law and is the quintessential Mexican bandit. However, his mother is Scottish and was greatly loved by his father, but as a woman without wealth and without "connections" socially, Alejandro Zarza did not marry her. While he gloried in his oldest son Malcolm, he took a Spanish aristocrat as his wife and from this time on, Malcolm's life was one of pain and disappointment. His father cowtows to his Spanish bride and her son, and he does not own up to the empty and evil nature that is at the core of both his wife and her son. Finally, Malcolm is driven away from his own home and his mother disappears soon after.

Now Malcolm has returned to find his oldest friend a widow and owner of a the neighboring ranch to his father. His half-brother is in charge of his father's holdings as Alejandro is fighting for his life. Malcolm's stepmother and half-brother are also working with those who hate his widow-friend in order to drive her into bankruptcy so they can take her land. The railroad is laying new lines and they want the wealth that will come from selling the land to the government.

Leigh is a woman who has grown up with Malcolm--her parents were also employees at the Zarza spread and during their childhood, she and Malcolm became best friends. They also began to experience a budding adolescent "crush" for one another up until the time that Malcolm was driven away. Now, 15 years later, Leigh is a widow, trying to overcome the prejudice of her foreman again a woman running a ranch, working endlessly to prove that she can prosper in the ranching world. A series of small disasters have continued to plague her and her spread, and with the re-appearance of Malcolm she is beginning to realize that the Zarza family is behind these happenings.

I liked this story a great deal but don't think this is the strongest of the Malloy series. It does, however, expand the story of Hermano, a Mexican Bandido who befriends Nicky in her travels and who takes her under his wing as a surrogate sister. He is, in his own way, a man of honor who is now well and truly weary of the life he has been living, but his reputation and his contacts through the years makes it possible for him to continue to assist his friends, both in Texas and in Wyoming. I think Williamson did well to bring us Malcolm's story, to give us some insight into who he really was, as he will continue to waft in and out of the Malloy family story for many pages to come. And be prepared to see the Malloys continue to be people who stand by their friends as well as each other. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

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