Dangerous Virtues: Chastity

Dangerous Virtues: Purity

 
To Meet Again by Elaine Barbieri
(Leisure, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-4908-2
**
Here’s the story, of three lovely ladies.
Who fall for three just as lovely men.
None of them has any sense,
What a pity
It’s called To Meet Again.

Supposedly, To Meet Again is the story of Thea, a woman whose true love was shot to death on their wedding day. As he dies in her arms, his last words are that they will meet again. Two years later, Thea is traveling to stay with her Aunt Victoria when her stagecoach is robbed. One of the robbers, Quinn Banning, is the exact double of Thea’s beloved Wade. When Quinn shows up wounded on Victoria’s door a few days later, Thea is drawn to him, but is it just because he might be Wade or is she really falling in love with this outlaw?

The reality is that To Meet Again is actually three separate loves stories, none of them very good, held together by a flimsy plot involving some stolen U.S. Treasury gold.

In addition to Thea and Quinn, we have Sheffield and Percy. Sheffield is the Treasury Agent who was in charge of guarding the gold bars that were stolen. She is a female, and that’s a big chip on her shoulder. Sheffield is determined to prove that she’s just as good as any man. Although I was willing to suspend my disbelief that a woman in could become a U.S. Treasury agent in 1875, I could not get over the fact that Sheffield is openly sleeping with her boss Percy.

Somehow this doesn’t seem like the best way to gain the respect of your colleagues, not to mention 19th century society in general. Percy, a confirmed bachelor, isn’t even worth it. He spends the book treating Sheffield like property, property he happens to have sex with, and then excuses it all in the end by saying it’s because he loves her. As foolish as Sheffield is, she doesn’t deserve that.

Finally, our third couple is Aunt Victoria and her best friend Larry. Both of them have lost their one true love, but can’t seem to figure out that their great friendship is a type of love in itself. Like all the characters, Victoria and Larry can’t seem to bring themselves to talk about anything, preferring to wallow in their doubt and unhappiness.

That lack of communication is the other big problem in To Meet Again. Thea, for some reason, will not tell Victoria about the stage robbery or why she’s so edgy around Quinn. Victoria knows something is bothering Thea, but she doesn’t want to pressure her, so doesn’t ask her what’s wrong. Instead, Victoria talks to Larry. Larry offers to talk to Quinn or Thea, but Victoria forbids him and in a very odd move threatens to cut off their relationship without a second thought should he go against her wishes. Doesn’t say much for Victoria’s commitment to friendship that she would break it off for such a trite reason. Everyone spends a lot of time in his or her own head, wondering and worrying, yet never solving anything.

The concept of the heroine losing the hero on their wedding day and somehow coming back was intriguing. Unfortunately, rather than focus on developing that story, the author chooses to tell multiple stories at once. The result is three shallow, uninteresting love stories that do not equal one complete book. As for the answer to the “Is he or isn’t he?” question, it is unsatisfying and clichéd when it finally comes.

--Anne Bulin


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