Big Bad Wolf

Let Me Come In

Someone's Been Sleeping
In My Bed

 
One Day, My Prince by Linda Jones
(Love Spell, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-505-523888-4
***
Linda Jones has carved out a niche for herself in romance by reworking popular fairy tales. Well she’s at it again, this time taking elements of Snow White and transplanting them in 1888 Texas. I’m happy to report that what could have been a cloying, overly cutesy plot premise, instead turned into a light-hearted romance sure to please fantasy and historical fans alike.

Joe White is a handsome lawman who’s an amazingly fast draw with his six-gun. These attributes make him an enemy in Silver Creek with outlaw Deacon Moss. Deacon’s favorite prostitute, the one who used to fawn all over him, is now smitten with the handsome Joe. In a fit of jealousy, Deacon gets his two inept henchman to ambush Joe, with instructions to finish him off for good.

Joe wakes up in the middle of nowhere, shot and badly beaten. He somehow manages to get on his horse, and plans to head back to Silver Creek to seek revenge. Joe is in no condition to travel, and subsequently passes out, while his horse leads him to the neighboring town of Jacob’s Crossing. It’s there that the orphaned Shorter sisters take him in.

The seven Shorter girls (ranging from 5 to 15) just recently lost their mother, and have no other surviving family. The local school mistress, Miss Sarah Prince, has been living with them until a solution about the girl’s future can be reached. The oldest girl, Alice, is desperate to keep the family together and makes a deal with the near dead Joe. She will save his life, and in exchange he will pretend to be their father.

Sarah knows immediately that Joe isn’t Albert Shorter, but understands why the girls chose to lie. She doesn’t want to see the girls split up, and the “adoptive” parents leave much to be desired. But she doesn’t trust the dangerous looking stranger and is even more unsettled by the attraction she feels.

Joe has no tolerance for woman like Sarah, they’re all prim, proper and starched collars. But he sees that she really cares about the welfare of the girls, and realizes he needs her help in the ruse. He can’t stay in Jacob’s Crossing forever, so he suggests a marriage of convenience, convincing Sarah that it’s the only way to keep the girls together. After a suitable amount of time, he’ll take off and she can get a divorce. But Joe knows it’s a dangerous game he’s playing, because even as he’s suggesting the plan, he is fascinated by the proper Miss Prince.

I was intrigued by this story right from the onset. A Love Spell romance that’s a historical? Where are the witches, fairies, leprechauns, magic potions? Joe’s name, the seven orphaned girls, and Deacon’s jealousy are all borrowed from Snow White, but Jones makes the story her own by not beating the reader over the head with just some tired fairy tale retread.

Sarah is a bit of a romance cliché, the prim and proper school mistress who leaves a secure home seeking adventure. However, I immediately liked her, and my opinion didn’t sway for the duration of the novel. Jones does a good job of setting up Sarah’s past, explaining her motives, and giving her real emotions. While prim on the outside, there’s a heart of the rebel beating on the inside, which is what makes her so attractive to Joe. She’s also a strong woman, who’s not afraid to speak her mind or stand up for herself. There’s some great confrontational scenes at the end of the novel where Sarah really shines as a character.

I was less pleased with Joe. He’s the typical “I’ll never settle down” romance hero. He can’t help but be fascinated with Sarah, even though she’s “not his type”, and he wrestles with his feelings for the majority of the novel. There are moments when I found myself wanting to smack him up side the head for the way he treats her, and he’s pretty pigheaded about their affair. But he is not without redeeming qualities, and he has enough sympathetic moments that I never completely soured on him.

Readers will find that they have to suspend belief somewhat throughout the novel, mainly concerning the continued presence of Deacon Moss and his “lady friend.” Deacon’s later scenes in the story were just a bit much for me to accept as credible. While the author does her best to redeem him, readers will find it hard to swallow considering how they are introduced to him.

One Day, My Prince is a nice western romance that incorporates a classic fairy tale without being over the top. A pleasant story to wile away a weekend, or lose yourself in after a long day at work. Readers who like both fairy tales and historicals will find themselves wanting more.

--Wendy Crutcher


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