Calder Pride

Eve's Christmas

Lone Calder Star

Something More
by Janet Dailey
(Kensington, $22, G) ISBN 0-7582-1984-9
When a chunk of wet ground falls away, Luke McCallister’s horse stumbles and unearths a skeleton.

Luke owns one of the oldest cattle ranches in Wyoming, the Ten Bar. Also living at the Ten Bar are: Fargo Young, Tobe West, and his little sister Dulcie. Fargo is an old ranch hand whose duties are mostly around the trailer where he and Luke live. The ranch house burned down several years ago; Luke’s wife and young son died in the fire. Twenty-year-old Tobe is still learning the skills of a cowboy. Luke offered him and Dulcie a place after Tobe had poured out his troubles and his dreams of being a cowboy. Saddlebags Smith, an old codger who’s been looking for hidden gold for years, sometimes makes an appearance on Ten Bar land. The gold was rumored to have been buried by train robbers.

The Ten Bar is situated outside the town of Glory, population less than 50. The Rimrock Bar and Grill owned by husband and wife Ima Jane and Griff Evans is the social center of the area. All news and gossip passes through there. The hot topic of discussion at the bar is the discovery of the skeleton. The only clue to the identity of the long-buried body is a 1938 class ring on one finger. Luke decides it’s a matter for the police.

Angie Sommers drives to Glory in a camper from her home in Iowa where she’s a high school teacher. The body has been identified as her long-lost grandfather, Henry Wilson. Wilson had been the grandson of Ike Wilson, one of the members of the gang of outlaws. Pursued by a posse, they were trapped and killed, all except Angie’s ancestor, who was convicted of the crime and hanged. The gold they’d taken from the train was never found.

Henry Wilson had come to Wyoming to look for the gold. He believed a letter the condemned man had written to his wife back in Iowa contained clues to the gold’s location. After several months, Henry was supposedly giving up and going home, but he was never seen again.

Angie has a copy of that letter. She is convinced she’s solved the secret code in the letter. She’s come to ask Luke to help her search for the gold. Several incidents targeting Angie suggest that not everyone is pleased with her arrival.

Meanwhile, the Ten Bar hands and some of the residents of Glory get gold fever. Just think what they could do with that much gold.

Janet Dailey began writing romances more than three decades ago. In recent years her books have centered on the burgeoning Calder clan. After the first few books, my interest in the Calders waned so I haven’t read one of her books in years. Something More is not connected to any of her other books so I decided to check it out.

In some respects, Something More is a return to the Americana romance fiction that was the standard when Dailey was in her heyday. The characters are stereotypical with little depth –the taciturn hero who’s looking for escape in a bottle, the fresh-faced farm girl heroine who revives those old feelings, the gossipy bartender, the salt-of-the-earth ranchers, the mysterious old coot, the lonely orphan longing for a woman’s touch.

And check out that G-rating. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where the hero and heroine don’t get any farther than a kiss or two.

The primary story line in Something More is the hunt for the gold, but it meanders around some getting there. All the characters get their time in the spotlight. Small town life in ranch country – church services are held in the Rimrock Bar – receives its due share of the focus. The bland romance between Luke and Angie seems hardly more than an afterthought. Yes, Luke’s ready to move on with his life and Angie’s good-looking, but there’s no sense that theirs is a great love fated by destiny.

For those readers who miss the traditional romances of a generation ago, Something More is worth checking out. Readers who enjoy a faster pace may be disappointed.

--Lesley Dunlap

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