Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico

Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley. 2010. May 2010. Summerside Press. 320 pages.

"Are you plumb crazy?" Jeremiah Dennison's loud retort bounced around the main room of the adobe house and returned to mock him. "Where did you get such a harebrained idea?"

Historical fiction. 1890. Golden, NM & Boston, MA.

Jeremiah thinks his old friend Philip Smith is crazy. It's bad enough--in Jeremiah's opinion--that Philip is "crazy" enough to believe in God. But now Philip has gotten the notion that God is telling him to place an advertisement for a wife in a Boston newspaper. He feels God telling him that some woman desperately needs his help. And though he doesn't admit this to Jeremiah right away, he feels this woman may have a child. So before he even gets one response to his letter, he begins adding two rooms onto his home. (Jeremiah thinks this is crazy too.)

So who is this would-be damsel in distress? Madeline Mercer is grieving the loss of her father. She takes comfort in her work with the poor. She has taken under her wing, a poor widow woman named Loraine, a woman cut off from her parents because they didn't approve of the marriage. She's pregnant. She's starving. She's about to lose her home because she can't pay her rent. But she is not alone in her troubles. Madeline is right there with her. Though Madeline has some troubles of her own. Madeline's support comes--in part--from Frank and Sarah Sneed, the ever-faithful servants that have worked for her family for decades.

The "threat" to Maddy comes in the form of her father's business partner. And he is a poorly fleshed villain. (And that's a bit of an understatement.) Oh, the villain talks big--makes threats, stomps around, shouts and bullies and whatnot. But why? The reader is clueless to his motivation. We're just expected to see Horace Johnstone as the biggest threat ever. (When one of the reasons for his behavior does come out, it's laughable.)

Maddy flees her home because Mr. Johnstone is threatening her. Marry me, or else. So Maddy sets off (and not alone) to find this Mr. Philip Smith. She doesn't have time to wait for his response. So their arrival surprises some. No one more than Jeremiah.

This is his response.

This was the woman he and Philip had sent a letter to yesterday. And here she was. On the way to Golden. Right now.
He stared at the faint road ahead. If it hadn't been for the other people in the wagon, he wouldn't try to miss the worst of the rocks and ruts. He'd just as soon shake the stiffness right out of Miss Madeline Mercer.
Why hadn't he pegged her right off? With her rose-scented letter and her fancy clothes, she'd slipped under his defenses. But he had her number now. She had to be a gold digger. Probably living off some other man's wealth she'd stolen and looking for a way to finance her high standard of living, as evidenced by her clothing and luggage, when that ran out. Well, it wouldn't be Philip's gold. He'd see to it.
Talking about God the way Philip did, she had to be a hypocrite. Evidently, this was just her way of playing on emotions to get what she wanted. It wouldn't take long to have the retired miner eating out of her hand. He had to think of something fast to keep her from meeting him. A single woman with a baby shouted immorality. She was more suited to work in one of the saloons than to marry a decent man. (118)
And that's only the beginning. Jeremiah goes to the sheriff to tell him about the "criminal" woman and her "gang" that arrived in town. Begging him to find out the truth about these "evil" newcomers before it's too late. Luckily, the sheriff isn't quite as stupid as Jeremiah.

Most in the community do welcome these newcomers. And Philip welcomes Maddy, baby Pearl, Sarah and Frank. He knows that these are the people God wanted him to help. Of course, there is no convincing Jeremiah just how wrong, just how stupid he is. Is there hope for Jeremiah yet? Will this man see the light, fall to his knees, and become a believer? Will Maddy get her happily ever after yet?

I didn't like this one. I've been trying to figure out why. Did Jeremiah and Horace lack in character development? Horace certainly did. But what about Jeremiah? Is he underdeveloped? Or did I just not like him? There was something so hostile, so vicious about his character--and this one trait defined him for most of the novel. So is my dislike of Jeremiah because of his hostility towards God? Towards Christians? Or do I dislike him because of his hostility and mistrust of women?

If Jeremiah was developed as a character--and for whatever reason I just didn't like him--then the fault is mine. Would Jeremiah be able to make me this angry if he wasn't developed? Just because I didn't like him doesn't mean that there aren't readers out there who will. There may be some who find Jeremiah a good love interest even.

Now, I'd like to focus on what I did like. I liked Philip. I liked his faith. I liked seeing his devotion to God. His willingness to act on faith. How God spoke to him and he listened. Even though it didn't exactly make sense, he believed that God was going to use him. I also loved his tenderness with Maddy and Pearl. I liked Maddy. She was a good woman with a big heart. I did find her a bit too-good-to-be-true at times. I would have liked to see her struggle a bit more. (Would I really have been so quick, so eager to forgive?) But overall, I did like her as a heroine. I liked Sarah and Frank too.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Cheryl Klarich 12:25 AM  

Hi Becky. You put into words what I was trying to say in my review. I was trying to figure out why I was put off too. Nice to know I'm not alone. Jeremiah must have spoken to Lena in a way that I couldn't get.

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