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The Mackenzies: David by Ana Leigh
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-79337-7
The MacKenzies: David opens with Cynthia MacKenzie onboard a ship returning home to her dying father's bedside. She is racing to get there, hoping that she has a chance to reconcile their differences before he dies. Cynthia is unique among women in 1879. She has been traveling in Europe with her fiancÚ, a count. Since we are told that she has been "intimate with the Count," I did at least conclude that her expenses were minimal.

When she arrives in Colorado, Cynthia is met by Dave Kincaid, whom she assumes is her driver. Imagine her surprise when she discovers he is an engineer and is in charge of building the railroad. It is mutual dislike at first sight. Dave blames Cynthia for making her father unhappy and sees her as a spoiled lady of easy virtue. Dave's rudeness and Cynthia's own inability to attract him do not endear him to her.

When her father dies the next day, the MacKenzie sisters discover that other than their mansion, all that is left of their father's vast estate is the company building the railway. In 1879, the rail bed is 200 miles south of Denver and headed onward.

A buyer is lurking in the background, but it will take the consent of all three sisters to sell. Cynthia quickly reads the financial statement, hits the profit and loss line, and decides that they should sell. Opposed by her sisters, and knowing that this was her father's dream, she agrees to wait it out.

But waiting is boring, since all the eligible Denver men seem to be "off at college or fighting Indians." So Cynthia hops the family rail car and heads south to the end of the line to watch the construction of the railroad. Of course, the incentive for going is definitely the gorgeous Dave Kincaid. Somewhat sensitive to Dave's criticism of her drawing room attire as she roams the work area, Cynthia finds appropriately tight Levi's at the local dry goods store and proceeds to shoot craps with some of the work crew.

The MacKenzies: David contains numerous references that seemed inconsistent with the historical period in which the book is set. Now quite frankly, I don't know if badminton racquets were appropriate "playground equipment " in the Denver environs in 1879 or if candy corn, spaghetti and chocolate milk. were readily available. But I do know that I never had the feeling that the characters were living in the 19th century. And the dialogue did nothing to dispel that feeling. This was a odd since the book contained so much detail about the many problems of 19th century railroad building.

The story bounces along like a train on a bumpy railbed, jumping back and forth from the trials of the job to the tribulations of the MacKenzie family. Cynthia's concerted effort to win Dave is definitely lacking in subtlety. And while finesse is not an absolute requirement for the development of a romantic relationship, it does make it more interesting. If you are a railroad buff, and like blunt rather vampy heroines, this book is for you. But some readers may find that the book inundates them with more information about railroad construction than they want or need.

--Thea Davis

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