A Chance At Love
by Beverly Jenkins, historical (2002)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-050229-0


What a dull book. If I want to read about Miss Perfect Know-It-All cleaning up the West and bringing love and kisses to everybody, I'd might as well move to Kansas and kiss some cows myself. Beverly Jenkins' A Chance At Love suffers from character motivations that don't remain consistent as well as a dire need of less Mary Sue characterizations.

Loreli Winters is a gambler, but she's the virtuous gambler sort. She has lots of money, but she joins a mail-order-bride wagon for adventure. In Hanks, Kansas, she meets two girls - Parent Trap monsters alert - who pretty much coerce this woman to be their new Mommy. Since Loreli is a beautiful superwoman, she has enough time to put her life on temporary hold to spend one year as Jake Reed's wife so that she can be momma to those gals. It'll be a marriage of convenience only, of course.

I wonder if I can find a woman like Loreli to be my maid of convenience for a year. I'll give her some peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, and she'll do all my housework day to night. Any takers?

And problems? What problems? Loreli is rich. If she has problems, all she has to do is to go to whatever they use as ATM machines in those 19th century days and presto, problem solved! She even has a housekeeper in town, mind you. Why won't she bring Jake and the gals to town is beyond me.

But wait, Jake. That's right. He's strange. His behavior forms a noticeable pattern throughout the book: he judges her, she tells him off, he nods, but a few pages down he's repeating the same thing again. This is a man who seems incapable of learning from his mistakes, and when the plot requires it, he'll distrust Loreli even when he has no reason to. Lovely.

But it doesn't matter, because Loreli can do anything and everything. Money? Loreli can give you plenty. Love and kisses? Loreli is a natural when it comes to good parenting, and she understands and loves kids so much she can write parenting skill books in her sleep. Teach silly bigoted people the Power Of Virtue? Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and handed it down. Kick bad guy's ass? No problem, let Loreli at it.

Give her time, and she will discover oil and eventually rule the world, I'm sure.

But egad, I need a conflict. The external conflict towards the end is silly and badly done, so that doesn't count. While I must say I like the idea of Loreli and Jake banding together to kick evil villains' butts together instead of he rescuing her, I also need a more compelling plot that isn't all about Loreli pontificating and showing the world how things should be run and her ardent worshipers all nodding in complete agreement to everything she says. There is no urgency in this story - Mommy Loreli will take care of everybody, have no fear - no pace, and for the most part, this book seems to be drifting like tumbleweeds in the wind in search of a direction.

But one thing though: it's still nice to read about a smart, capable heroine who doesn't take crap from anybody. Now if only she isn't stuck in a story that goes nowhere.

Rating: 66


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