Extreme Measures by Renee Halverson
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-5062-5
Extreme Measures is the story of Andre DuBois and Faith O’Malley. Theirs is a story of wealth vs. poverty, hope vs. despair, charity vs. greed and learning to like oneself so that one can truly love another. Unfortunately neither is a particularly likable character and the beginning of the story is excruciating in its insipidness. This leads to the novel’s downfall.

Faith is the daughter of a prostitute in 1879 Denver. She is in her mid-twenties and has risen above it all, slightly. She has made it her life work to help the children of the prostitutes from experiencing the despair she felt as a child. She has purchased a large mansion, and turned it into an “orphanage” of sorts, welcoming any child whose mother is a whore. In order to do this, she takes out a large loan. The greedy banker, who is the father of one of the boys under her care, is bound and determined to put her out of business. He calls in her loan early.

Faith decides to gamble, cheating if she must, in order to get the money she needs, justifying it because it is for the children. (Hence the title - extreme measures.) She chooses the Dancing Belles Saloon, known for its nice atmosphere and high stakes games. She has picked out her table and proceeds to entice the other members into thinking she is a new player, with little brains, rather than a slick con artist. One player, the owner of the saloon, sees through her antics. Andre DuBois is convinced she is cheating and after she has won a pot worth over $2000, he finally figures out how.

What follows is a series of encounters which allow Faith to pay off her loan with her ill-gotten gains and Andre to extract repayment by having Faith work as a dealer at his saloon. It turns out that he too has a hidden charitable side, taking woman forced into prostitution into his saloon as dealers to help them overcome their unfortunate choice of career. He suffers inside each time one of them turns back to that horrid profession.

There are problems with the story. Andre and Faith treat each other warily, as one could expect given the way they meet. But they are rude, patronizing, and resort to name-calling each time they meet. Yet they feel attraction for each other. Faith realizes early on she could give her heart and gets even nastier, fearing she is turning into a whore like her mother.

“Animosity turns to love” is a well-used ploy in romance stories, but this rendition turned me off. Faith acts like a spoiled child and Andre isn’t any better. They both assume the worst and their turnaround just doesn’t make sense given their experiences and what they know of each other. I never did understand what Andre saw in Faith to make him think she was different, because when she was around him, she was not someone to like.

Their lack of trust dragged on even as they became more than friends; when this attraction turned to love, it was disturbing. How can you love someone if you cannot trust them? How can you love them if you think they are one step away from turning you into your worst nightmare? How can you love someone you think is a liar and a cheat? This is love?

Faith’s lack of trust leads her back to the greedy banker for another loan, rather than to the man she supposedly loves. This just highlights her lack of intelligence.

Andre is a tad easier to see as a hero. His angst over his past is less sympathetic, as he was an heir to a plantation when the Civil War came to Louisiana and destroyed his way of life. He swore to regain his wealth, which he did, only to have it stolen by a woman who chose prostitution over him. Now he has encased his heart in stone, regained his money and thinks every woman is rotten.

The story does pick up when the children are introduced and Faith interacts with them. She becomes more likable. The love scenes are well written and fun. For a few short pages, I enjoyed the interactions. But Faith’s transformation is amazingly quick and Andre, too, makes a life-changing discovery and in a matter of days becomes the man that Faith has always envisioned he could be.

Extreme Measures shows some promise as a debut novel, but in the end, it just didn’t measure up.

--Shirley Lyons

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