by Barbara Baldwin, historical (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-706-6
With his uncle murdered - someone deliberately tried to make the murder seem like a suicide - and his twin brother Montgomery missing, Maxwell Grant is definitely a man with a cause as he attempts to locate Monty and get to the bottom of Jerome Smith's murder. Max has no great love for his father but he has to look out for Monty as well as his mother and his sister.
Meanwhile, Abby O'Brien is a waitress at the Harvey House in Chicago. She attracts Max's attention when she begins wearing a watch that she has won in a poker game around her beck - the watch belongs to the missing Monty. Abby is from Boston but she fled when her mother insisted that she marry some fellow she didn't care for so here she is, calling herself Faith (her middle name) and, inspired by the writings of Susan B Anthony and Margaret Fuller, trying to make a life for herself in Chicago. Abby still uses her last name with her false name, however, and she learned the need to use a false name only after she was nearly dragged home by someone hired by her family for using her real name, so she's not exactly the brightest bulb around.
Abby eventually believes that he's another men sent by her parents to get her back so she runs away again. Hopefully she will remember to use a fake name, but I won't hold my breath expecting her to. I really want to weep for all humanity when she encounters a preacher and tells him her full (real) name because she believes that it won't do to lie to a preacher. What happens if the preacher is a bad guy in disguise, huh? Anyway, action predictably enough only has Max believing that she knows something about Monty's whereabouts and therefore she is only pretending to be sweet and innocent.
The sad thing here is, the preacher is just another disguise of Max - his initial one was an Irishman that Abby ends up running away from. And so it goes, on and on, with basically this story has the hero pretty much running circles all around a sweet but deplorably stupid heroine who just has to give lip service to feminism so that I will cringe even more every time she does something dumb.
The more urban setting is a nice change from the usual cowboy and rustler thing that most historical romances set in America tend to have, but while under any ordinary circumstances the story would be a pleasantly readable one, here it is not too enjoyable to have a heroine who runs around insisting on being in situations of which she is clearly ill-equipped, intellectually, to deal with. She offers ridiculously little challenge to Max in this story. Therefore, while Abby is a sweet young lady who clearly belongs at home, all nicely dressed up and pampered and kept away from harm's way as much as possible, she makes a hopelessly dull heroine here. Max is a pretty standard hero, but with a dull heroine by his side, he's not exactly brimming with memorability as a result.
Song Of My Heart is a pleasant read if you can tolerate heroines who need to have everything spelled out to them before they get anything, but I personally feel that Abby is a big miscalculation on Ms Baldwin's part from which the story never recovers from.
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