No Place For A Lady uses the timeworn plot device of mistaken identity and the result is a story that has little to set it apart from others. The romance is full of an overabundance of lustful wanting, some hot sex scenes and humdrum conclusions.
Dirk Ballinger has inherited his father’s large ranch in Colorado, only to discover that he has an illegitimate brother who shares the “Ballinger green eyes” with him. After getting over the anger at his dead father for his lack of integrity, Dirk gives Ray Lovejoy part of his monetary inheritance and offers Ray the opportunity to change his name. Ray takes off and sows his wild oats in England, using Dirk’s name. Then he returns to Colorado and becomes a highwayman.
One of those oats takes seed, and when Dirk receives a letter from an irate father, he sends for Lady Elizabeth Sommersby, who is with child. He offers marriage so that there is no further dirtying of the Ballinger name with another bastard child.
Lady Elizabeth, a spoiled English lady, is not wholly innocent in the making of this child and is forced to accept this offer since her father is destitute and she is ruined. Her Irish maid Molly Riordan accompanies her and is thrilled to come to America. She has hopes of finding her father, who abandoned the family in order to find his fortune. He was last heard from several years before in a mining town near the Ballinger ranch.
Lady Elizabeth, now seven months pregnant, and Molly are on the stagecoach not far from their destination, when the Lovejoy gang attacks. Ray kidnaps Lady Elizabeth when he is told she is Dirk’s wife. As Molly lies unconscious, the stagedriver, an Irishman, thinks to help Molly by naming her as Lady Elizabeth to the rescuers.
So now we have Dirk thinking Molly is his bride to be, Molly thinking Dirk is the scoundrel who seduced and left Elizabeth pregnant and Ray and Elizabeth are gone. How they work all this silliness and misunderstanding out is best left to the reading of the story, if you are so inclined. Molly and Dirk are the primary characters to the story.
Molly has been nothing but a lady’s maid, but was raised by her grandmother to be a lady, a unique combination in England. She is strong-willed and stands up to many hardships, yet she is ruled by the newly discovered lust she feels for Dirk. This lust is so strong, it even overrules her outrage over his behavior in England. I often found myself disappointed that she was so shallow.
Dirk, on the other hand, is a man who wants to right the wrongs of his father and brother. Since no one else knows of the relationship between Ray and Dirk, nor of his father’s fall from grace, I can’t understand his noblesse. And since I had trouble with this, I can’t imagine that he lusts, and then loves, a person he discovers is a maid to his fiancée. He, too, lets his lust overcome what I would call common decency.
Many of the circumstances the two found themselves in requires suspension of realism. Molly has never ridden a horse so they find a “gentle horse” for her first day in the saddle. After spending 5 hours riding, and then sleeping on the ground, she gets up the next day feeling only a little uncomfortable. I want that horse, since I was sore for a week after riding for only 1 hour my first time!!
Another character was “gored by a bull.” He was bleeding from his side and was unconscious. Yet he needed only a few stitches and recovered amazingly quickly. These little details keep adding up as the book goes on, so that it is hard to disregard them.
The secondary plotlines attached to the housekeeper, her son who has mental retardation, the foreman and the sheriff did little to enhance enjoyment of what is a less than stellar story. The culmination of the plotlines was somewhat gripping, only to have it end in a predictable finale.
The title of the book refers to the mining area in the mountains that Dirk tells Molly is No Place For A Lady. In my mind, it is no place for a reader looking for a good romance.