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Monday, June 23, 2008

A Reason to Believe

**** A Reason to Believe by Maureen McKade. American historical romance.

This is the second story in the trilogy about the Forrester brothers who'd been separated as children when their parents were killed. The first was A Reason to Live.

A Reason to Believe is about Rye Forrester, a widower who's been searching for Dulcie McDaniels because he feels responsible for her husband's death.

He finds Dulcie and her young daughter Madeline in dire straits. Dulcie's father, a lazy drunk, has just been lynched for the supposed murder of a well-liked townsman, and Dulcie struggling to survive on the neglected family farm.

Rather than add to her distress by explaining why he's there, Rye simply offers to work for her in return for room and board.

Dulcie is suspicious, but she needs the help, even though she's promised herself never to be dependent on a man again, after being disappointed by her profligate husband and her alcoholic father.

Dulcie's mistrust is a little overdone--at one point she completely freaks out when Madeline races out of the house and Rye catches her, screaming at him to let her daughter go and threatening him with her shotgun. But she does have reason to be prickly. She's shunned by the townsfolk both for being the daughter of a murderer and for her behavior before she was married, when she was so desperate to leave her father and the small town that she latched on to the first young soldier to catch her eye.

On the other hand, Dulcie's character is very refreshing. She enjoys sex, and she's a practical woman, rather than the martyr so beloved in fiction. The most vivid example of that is when she was trying to return home with her daughter after her husband's death. She got a ride with a peddler, and his price for the trip was a night in his bed.

We get a slow revelation of what it is that Rye feels so guilty about, along with the solution of the mystery of who really committed the murder Dulcie's father was lynched for. Along the way, Dulcie's developing problem with alcohol is dealt with, as is the problem of a young orphan boy in town that Rye identifies with.

These are realistic problems and realistic characters--not some idealized heroine or standard type. I was slightly disappointed with the ending to the mystery plot--not with whodunit, but with how it and the town's collective guilt was dealt with, although I'm not sure what I expected. I was also a little disappointed with Dulcie's reaction to learning Rye's identity, though it was typical enough of romance novels and fit with her earlier overreactions.

A Reason to Believe definitely stands alone--while Rye's brothers are mentioned, a reader wouldn't miss anything by reading these out of order.

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