Almost a Lady

Cinnamon & Roses

A Promise of Roses

Walker's Widow

Callie’s Convict by Heidi Betts
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-5030-7
What would you do if: you are on a farm in Texas in the mid-1800’s and you are alone, raising a baby a prostitute gave you to raise, when a man, who looks like he hasn’t bathed in two years, barges in and demands you give him his baby. Scream? Get your gun you have hidden in the other room and shoot him? Stab him with anything you can get your hands on? At least attempt to escape the first chance you get?

Or would you stand there naked for a few minutes, noticing how he might look good if he shaved and cut his hair? How about listening to his tale of being an escaped convict who was wrongly convicted and really means you no harm? How about getting up the next morning and making him breakfast?

My guess is most readers would choose the first paragraph. Not so our heroine, and herein lies my biggest issue with Callie’s Convict. If you can accept that some women might choose door number 2, you will probably enjoy this fairy tale much more than I did.

Callie Quinn is alone, her brother having gone off to the gold fields of California. Lily, a lady of the evening, (it is never explained how they know each other) dies in childbirth, giving her son Matthew into Callie’s care. Callie has been raising him for three months when the above scenario occurs.

Wade Mason is Matthew’s father. Lily came to him in prison in an attempt to blackmail him into marriage so she could get her hands on a gold mine that Wade knows about and for which it is suspected he holds the deed. During that short visit, Lily offered herself as an enticement and they had sex. Wade turned down her offer, even though he thought she might be the only way he could clear his name.

Wade has been convicted of shooting a fellow rancher in the back in cold blood. This rancher claimed Wade was living on his land and Wade supposedly killed him. Wade contends that the rancher’s greedy son, Brady Young, actually shot his father. Now, several years later, Wade has escaped from prison and is determined to clear his name and get his ranch back. Callie, of course, believes his innocence, is attracted to his body (even more when it is clean) and offers him the chance to stay to hide. They search for clues to prove Wade’s innocence.

Callie is not very bright. She is a hard worker, and takes great care of the baby and her property. However, she is rather easily taken in by good looks and fast-talking. I just was never able to connect with her.

Wade seems like a truly hardened man who has lived through the hell of prison. His caring, “old” side was brought into play through a glimpse of his humor, making him a more sympathetic hero. He is out to save his own skin and was never really developed beyond that and his easy grasp at fatherhood. He didn’t seem concerned or worried about discovery, nor did Callie.

Having said all that, the sex scenes were entertaining and were mild for the length of time they went on. Both characters do a lot of thinking during their love scenes, rather than just being caught up in the action. This did not really work for me either. But I did like that they talked and did have somewhat more of a relationship than lust and worries about sex. They actually had conversations about laundry, cooking and changing diapers.

There are only a few minor characters and none really add to the sense of satisfaction. Two of the characters are the leads from an earlier Betts book, Walker’s Widow. Walker ends up helping to save the day, so for those familiar, with his story, this will add to the happy ending.

Betts’ writing style lends itself to a fluid pace and I never felt bogged down. I only felt those “I want to bail” feelings when Callie did something inane, like spend five pages berating herself for liking their lovemaking and wanting more. There were plenty of these moments.

If I could have accepted the plotline, and liked the heroine better, I could have raised the rating to three hearts, primarily due to the writing style of the author. As it is, Callie’s Convict wallows in the lower depths.

--Shirley Lyons

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