Heart of Texas

Ride the Wind

Tykota's Woman

 
The Moon and the Stars
by Constance O’Banyon
(Leisure, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5542-2
***
Caroline Richmond Duncan is on the run. In 1868, she lost her husband on her wedding night when her new step-brother-in law shot him. Fearing for her life, she fled and ended up in San Sebastian Texas. Caroline is convinced this man, Brace Duncan, will stop at nothing to find her and possibly kill her. She knows where her husband Michael hid the family money.

Brace first put it about that Michael Duncan killed himself. Now he has hired a bounty hunter to find Caroline, claiming that she killed Michael herself. Wade Renault is a retired bounty hunter who is known as the best. He is intrigued by the tintype of Caroline and agrees to come out of retirement to find her.

Caroline has made a home for herself in San Sebastian in the last year, doing sewing and laundry for the men on the army post. She also teaches some of the men to read. Her landlady is her best friend, yet no one knows her whole story. Caroline is still fearful and keeps a small bag packed, ready to run at the first sign of trouble. But Wade rides into town claiming he is looking for a man. She lets her guard down enough that he captures her and they begin a journey back to Charleston, South Carolina.

As they journey, Wade begins to question the story that Brace told him and wonders if Caroline’s proclaiming her innocence is the truth. He also has to fight his attraction to her and soon, her attraction to him.

The tale moves from San Sebastian to New Orleans where Wade has an estate, first by horseback, then by train. When Caroline gets ill and Wade is forced to wait in New Orleans until she recuperates, they have time to explore their respective worlds and feelings.

The story holds just enough entertainment to make it an acceptable reading experience. Constance O’Banyon’s style keeps the reader invested in the story. However, there is not much that holds up to severe scrutiny, so the reader must also take a lot of information at face value.

The setting could be anywhere but seems not historically in tune to the post-Civil War era. Little is mentioned of the trials of the time. Caroline is industrious enough to travel on her own and yet is afraid of her shadow much of the time. She is resourceful but her love for Michael, who is portrayed as a weak man, doesn’t endear her to the reader. Wade is a Creole who was ultimately adopted by a rich planter and businessman. There is no mention of how this man survived the South in the war, yet when Wade returned from his stint of rebellion as a bounty hunter, he returned to open arms and prosperity. A final distraction is how Wade is portrayed as being so soft-hearted. There are examples galore of his generous nature and ease of dealing with people. He even adopts a young Creole boy who he found in the streets. These descriptions don’t ring true of a man who supposedly spent years building up a reputation as the best bounty hunter in the West.

Brace is evil personified and there is no information as to why – he just is. That makes it easy to see him as the villain and it makes Caroline’s fear seem real. But it lacks depth, too, adding to the perception that the reader just needs to believe things because the author says they are true.

The Moon and the Stars is a nice romance, especially for fans of O’Banyon. But for readers looking for depth and intensity in both story and romance, this one may just as easily be bypassed.

--Shirley Lyons


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