Beneath A Silver Moon
by Deborah Schneider
(Leisure, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5105-2
Deborah Schneider’s Beneath A Silver Moon is a delightful western that is reminiscent of the romantic stories of old. I highly recommend it.

Sinclair Readford has come west from Philadelphia to meet her Aunt Matilda and to have some adventure. Born and raised to be a true lady has left her feeling restless. Her father is off on a historical fact-finding tour of Egypt and Sinclair is feeling lonely. She decides to seek out her mother’s sister, whom she has never met, but with whom she has been corresponding for years. Only trouble is, she decides to surprise her aunt at her home for wayward women.

Aunt Matilda is actually Matilda Haynes, one of the richest madams in the state of Montana. When Sinclair arrives, Matilda is gone and Sinclair is assumed to be one of the new girls. The man in charge, a nasty villain by the name of Hank Borscht, locks her in an upstairs room, promising he will return to “break her in”.

Sinclair is the innovative type and decides she must escape. Dressed only in her underwear, she ties sheets together and begins to climb out the window. Below are two cowboys who are surprised to see a shapely blonde hanging on the side of the building. Sinclair loses her grip and lands in the saddle with Jefferson McCloud, startling his horse, and off they ride.

Now Jefferson is in a bind too. He needs a caretaker for his four-year-old sister and Sinclair needs a place to hide and, of course, get some clothes. When confronted with the almost unbelievable story of how Sinclair came to be where she was, he decides to give her a chance. An uneasy agreement is formed.

Sinclair is a bright, energetic young woman, with loads of enthusiasm and lots to say. Jefferson is a reticent cowboy, who thrives on the quiet on the range. But they are drawn to each other and Jefferson lusts after her. He decides she needs to leave for his piece of mind, but Sinclair decides otherwise. Their journey to love is fraught with missteps, arguments, and partnering and mutual respect. Both have some things in their past to overcome, but with the help of the other are open and honest enough to change.

Maddie, the four year old, is the catalyst to their friendship. Maddie suffered a trauma when her mother died, falling from a roof trying to get her down. Maddie refuses to talk and is impossible - rocking, throwing tantrums and generally acting like a wild animal. Sinclair decides she can help her and patiently begins to show the child she cares. This is presented in a most realistic manner, as Maddie doesn’t miraculously change; rather she progresses slowly inch-by-inch. Sinclair and Jefferson celebrate each little success, and each triumph slowly melts Jefferson’s heart to love and accept both Maddie and Sinclair.

I enjoyed the banter of the two main characters. The other characters added flavor to the story even though they were traditional western types - the ornery cowhand who has been around forever, the feisty housekeeper who provides insight into the past, and the dastardly villain who wants things without working for them.

The only real complaint I have is the cover picture with the half-clad enchantress and the title, which doesn’t really connect to anything in the story. The story dragged a little about 100 pages in. However, Sinclair decides to get adventurous and then the sexual tension starts building to get the reader re-engaged.

With two strong and lively leads, a well-written side plot about a disturbed young girl and all the adventure Sinclair could ever hope for, Beneath A Silver Moon is worth the price of admission. I hope there will be more from Deborah Schneider.

--Shirley Lyons

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