by Jill Henry, historical (2000)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6757-7
A Candle In The Window is a very subversive book. It has all the elements the Grinch in me refuse to go sappy over: romantic single daddy (even if he's on the run from the law), the kiddie daughter the heroine plays supernanny over, and Christmas ding-dong bells all over the story. But I can't resist: the single daddy's determination that his daughter finds a good home far away from his bad, bad karma is rather moving, and the heroine's yearning for a family and love seems rather heartbreaking, especially since Christmas is around the corner.
Boo-hoo. A Candle In The Window is a rather standard story, every instinct of mine screams at me. "Don't succumb to the muzak! Don't succumb... ohmigod, that's so touching!" I'm a goner.
Luke McKenna is on the run to clear his name, The Fugitive-style, with his daughter Beth on his side. But Luke realizes that he will end up endangering Beth, however, so he decides to leave her behind with Molly Lambert, never a more maternal and warm lady one can find this side of Christmastime. But when he was shot in Molly's compound, Molly is forced to take him in too and nurse him back to health (any old pro in romance reading will see where this will lead to - hint: bare chest, heroine blushing, the usual).
Predictable complications ensue. He is wanted by bounty hunter, and he staying with both Beth and Molly will Endanger Them Both. Molly loves him, however, but alas, what can she do? Will Luke clear his name? Will Beth get a new Mommy by Christmas?
Do I care? Well, yes! Luke's dilemma, actually done to death already, seems right this time around. Molly's dilemma, also done beyond rigor mortis, seems right too. Poor Beth, a character that pops up like zits in all of such stories, pushes all my buttons. Boo-hoo, isn't it lovely to see people happy on Christmas?
Maybe it's the nice, warm, simple yet very readable prose. Maybe it's the Christmas spirit in the air weakening this old crank's defenses to Christmas muzak. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Either way, A Candle In The Window is a rather standard Western that succeeds in making me waste through half a box of Kleenex.
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