Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Treasure -- Malloy Family #4 -- by Beth Williamson

This is the 4th in the Malloy family series and I think it just keeps on getting gooder and gooder!! The Malloy men are rockin sockin men of the Old West with muscles that are hardened by endless days of hard work and ranching demands, a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush, hearts that are as big as the state of Wyoming, and loyalty to family and friends that seems to be able to endure almost any challenge.

Ray Malloy is the oldest of the seven Malloy offspring and as the oldest sibling seems to take very seriously the responsibility to look out for his brothers and his sister Nicole. Life has not been good to him. He does not seem to have the easy charm of his brother Trevor or the endless sense of humor of Jack. In fact, he is not easy to be with and seems to be more reticent and quiet--except, that is, for his ever-present scowl and frown, a facial appearance that seems to never go away.

Ray had the misfortune of falling "in lust" with Regina Goodson, daughter of the owners of the General Store, a spoiled beauty that could charm the paint off a building, but who has no desire to be responsible or who has never had to grow up. As a result of their brief affair Regina finds that she is pregnant and Ray, always being willing to "do the right thing" marries her and brings her to live with him and his parents on their ranch. The pregnancy reveals Regina for the vacuous and empty person she really is, and two weeks after the birth of their daughter, Regina disappears. The extra complication which now becomes apparent is that one look at the baby affirms that the child could never have been Ray's, but he falls deeply in love with his baby daughter Melody. For the next five years he is faithful in caring for her and letting her know that she is the child of his heart.

However, all is not well with Melody. She is now five years old and as wild as the creatures who inhabit the hills around her grandparents' ranch. Knowing that Melody needs education and some consistent discipline, Ray hires Lillian Wickham, a 27 year old single lady from New York, who has been raised in an ophanage run by Catholic sisters, whose Mother Superior is a close childhood friend of Ray's mother. Lillian has been hired a number of times as governess by families in New York but has been dismissed each time because of her inherant clumsiness. She is truly an accident looking for a place to happen!! But Ray is desperate--he has searched for over a year to find someone who could be a governess to Melody and a cook/housekeeper for his ranch, and he hires Lillian, sight unseen. When Ray meets Lillian's train he is struck almost dumb at her graceful appearance, her petite form, and thinks that he should send her packing before he even thinks twice. However, they go on to the ranch and begin their story together.

Melody continues to be a problem but throughout the burgeoning relationship between Ray and Lillian there is a slow thaw in Melody's heart toward this unique woman who has experienced many of the emotional ups and downs that have already made Melody's life difficult.

There is romance here, to be sure, and deep love, friendship, and loyalty as the Malloys must band together to save one of their own from the depths of degradation in the bowels of old San Francisco. Lillian's gentle loving brings smiles to Ray's face for the first time in years. For this she is deeply prized and Ray's family embraces her in a way that gives her a family for the first time in her life.

Williamson has done such a great job of writing with grace and has brought the reader into the hearts and minds of the characters. I am also struck with her willingness to deal with the social ills that afflicted so many during the expansion of the Old West, with the realities of early death and abandoned children, with the horror of child enslavement and the hurts caused by the opium traffikers. I think you will like Lillian, a woman who was subjected to the worst that life could bring into the life of a child, but who has triumphed because of the care of the nuns and a deep determination to be a good person in spite of everything. I think you will like Ray in spite of his grumpy ways. Who would not love to be treasured as is Melody, and who will not like to see the "treasure" that grows and blooms as these two people become indipensible to one another as their acceptance of one another heals their hearts. I think you will like the suspense as well. This is a very good read and well worth the time. I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5.

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