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Deborah Camp’s historical romance Lonestar’s Lady was a surprisingly good read, one that I enjoyed till the end. It had some heart-warming, some funny and definitely sexy moments that kept me throughly entertained. I do believe I’ve become a fan of the author’s writing. :D
Gussie Horton arrives in Pear Orchard Arkansas on a livestock wagon all stinky and dirty and alone in hopes for a better future. After all, she left her no good drunken father, the only family member, to get married. She’s supposed to be the proverbial mail-order bride to a man she’s never met before. But Gussie was desperate for her own life with a loving husband and a family of her own. Most importantly, she was tired of being dragged by her papa from place to place and fending off unwanted attentions from his ‘buddies’ when her papa was unconscious from a day of heavy drinking. So yeah, Gussie wanted out and away as far as possible from that life and this seemed like her only chance.
Gussie didn’t expect a lot, but she’d hoped her would-be groom would at the least be a nice fellow who has his own homestead, an income, and one who doesn’t touch liquor with 10 feet pole. It was very apparent that she was naïve and prone to daydreaming because she presumed too many things, never considering that an exact opposite scenario is a possibility as well. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when she arrives on the train station and found nobody waiting for her. After waiting for hours, Gussie finally decides to hitch her own ride with what little she had and go in search of her errant groom. Thankfully she knew Bob Babbitt’s address.
Upon arriving at her destination on that above mentioned livestock wagon—something that was never featured in any of her daydreams—Gussie soon realizes that Bob Babbitt was a liar, a cheat and a drunk, currently stewing in a jail for vandalism. No wonder he never showed his ugly mug! It leaves Gussie thoroughly disheartened, even a bit depressed. All the miles she’d crossed hoping for a better life, dreaming of a man who’d love and protect her, were crumbling around her now. Now what?
When she went the funeral home that Babbitt claimed to have owned (which he didn’t) Gussie noticed a few men standing near the building. At a first glance, one in particular struck in the middle of her heart where she stood. He was tall, lithe muscled (or so Gussie would imagine how he looked underneath his clothes ;) ) with dark long hair and eyes. He was uncommonly handsome and he smiled at her with devilry lurking in those eyes. Even if she was struck by his looks, Gussie was in no mood to flirt. She was sore, stinky and cranky for good reasons. At that moment, she was through with men and I couldn’t blame her at all. LOL
Soon Gussie realized she had very little to spend if she wanted a decent place to live until Babbitt is out of the jail. But does she even want to wait for that no good SOB? While she was sad, yet pondering her options, the man had already replaced her daydreams since she saw him comes inside. He has heard of her plight but hasn’t said much. Gussie felt humiliated, and she could cry then and there, though she tried her best to keep herself together. Then a beautiful blonde lady stops by too, and it was apparent the man knew her. The lady, Susan as she introduces herself, offers Gussie a place to stay at her ranch. It could’ve been suspicious as how readily she was offering shelter but Susan was kind and Gussie couldn’t find anything to be suspicious about. Besides by then Gussie knew she was in trouble, she needed help.
On the way to Susan’s ranch, to Gussie’s relief (why is that she couldn’t tell), she confirms that Max Lonestar, the goodlooking man in question, is her half-brother and not her husband as Gussie initially thought he was by the intimacy of their communication. Soon she also learns that Max’s mother was white and father an Osage Indian. After he died, their mother married a respectable farmer around here. Susan is her second child, now happily married with her own children. She manages their parents’ farm alongside her husband Eric.
At Susan’s home is where Gussie truly begin to realize what it was to be a part of a loving family. Eric loved Susan as much as she loved her big, blonde husband. Their children were the sweetest little things. Max was equally loved and cherished by his family. Gussie again felt that same sadness and depression settling over her. Would she ever have a family like this of her own? How long will she stay here, even though Susan was willing to let her stay in exchange of help around the house? Help bit was Gussie’s idea cause she refused to be a freeloader and I instantly loved it about her.
Now, though Susan’s help was welcomed, Gussie could feel there was something underneath Max Lonestar and Susan’s exchange; almost like an expectation, from her? It materializes in a few days when Max proposes to her out of nowhere! Well, she was insanely attracted to him by that time, and through her inexperienced eyes, she could tell he felt the same... but Gussie never thought a marriage to him would even be a possibility! It was apparent that Max had thought of it but the proposal was decidedly businesslike. Max had been eyeing a prime piece of land for a long time; one his mother wanted for him to have. The owner, who didn’t want to sell back then, is now willing to sell and leave this area. However, the man had one condition; he won’t sell to any bachelor. He wants his land to be a family place so Max must marry ASAP to claim it. It seemed like Bob Babbitt was eyeing the same piece of land and Gussie was his way to accomplish that feat. Now that he isn’t around (Gussie didn’t want him to be), Max can negotiate it with the owner. Time is running out because the owner isn’t willing to wait any longer. Max has the money to buy It, all he had to do is to get married ASAP.
Gussie should’ve been disheartened once again, and maybe she was for a bit but she decides to be practical. For one, she was definitely more into Max Lonestar and already loved his family. Nothing more would delight her than be a part of this family! Plus from what she’d observed in the past few days, Max was ambitious but he worked hard for everything. He had money and could eventually buy a place they can call their own. So even though he was in jail for a few yrs for accidental killing, Gussie decides she’d like to take her chance with him.
However it was when they go to visit the farmland so Gussie can have a look, is when Gussie begins to realize how desperate Max’s situation was. She realizes that being a ‘half-breed’ has diminished Max’s chances for doing anything or being anyone considerably. People didn’t want him around even though they take his help freely. Most didn’t even want to acknowledge him and it has worsened since his parents’ passing and his jail-time. Everybody liked treating him like some kinda discarded dishrag despite the fact he was honest and hardworking. It seemed like Max had come to terms with his so-called station in life. After being in jail, he now wants no more trouble. But this land, he really truly wants it. It’s a part of his dream of having his own place, and hearing him plead to the owner to give him a few days to find out a way breaks Gussie’s heart. Initially she wanted time and Max agreed on it though he thought that like the girls here, she may not say ‘yes’. But after this, Gussie makes certain the owner knows she’s to be married to Max. Yep, he was taken aback, utterly surprised, even if he was smiling in wonderment at this sudden shift of things. :D
Max had wanted Gussie on spot. Even when she was all dirty, he loved her posture, her cranky little butt and how she tried to look down on him even though he was half a head taller than her. And she did clean up quite fine, with her blonde hair and blue eyes. Max knows he could do worse. After hearing her plight of life, he wanted to protect her and with how he needs a wife ASAP, it felt right. Besides, Bob Babbitt had been a thorn on his hide since their young days and he knew the a$$hole wanted the same farmland just to rile him up. Everyone knew Babbitt would never really pay for it cause he was lazy but acted entitled all the time. So all in all, it could also be a sweet victory for him if he could get Gussie to say ‘yes’ to the proposal. Though he had little hope that she will, her sudden change of mind surprises the hell out of him. But Max was immeasurably happy that his dream just may come true finally!
Gussie and Max marry soon enough so they can get the deed signed by the owner and become the owner of what was known to be the Pointdexter Farm. Of course, Max was going to rename it so it truly becomes theirs. Even though the marriage and everything else went quite smoothly, Gussie was still naïve about men, yet not so naïve to not know what they want from a woman. But she was scared of what was to come. While Max was anticipating their union, Gussie was feeling jumpy and restless. Max finally realized she wasn’t ready for the intimacy so he becomes a gentleman and decides to give her some times to get used to him. Either way, the farm and the house where they were living now had plenty to do so it kept them busy.
But soon though, Max had run out of patience. He loved everything about Gussie and the kisses they had shared on and off, telling him she wanted him. But he had no idea what to do to reach out so she understood. Gussie felt it all but by then, they were at a stand-still, not knowing how to proceed. But when Max finally decides he can’t sleep in the same bed anymore and begins sleeping in the barn is when Gussie finally becomes more alert about the situation. She had gotten used to having him near, looking at his face at dawn and contemplating her good luck having a husband like him. She definitely wasn’t going to lose him now! When she thinks of it, it was true that she wanted him too, so nothing they shared would only be duty to her.
Gussie, whom Max had taken to call Augusta, and Max’s budding relationship was the best thing about this book. I loved it so much I didn’t want it to finish. I loved how hardworking and honest Max was, loved how adorably naïve yet practical Gussie was. And how, amidst many trouble (some of them were hate crimes, no thanks to that a$$hole Babbitt), they begin building a life together. Hoping, dreaming of a better day with their own children. There were times I laughed with them, other times I felt like crying with them, especially when freakin’ Babbitt burns down their house when they weren’t there. :( I mean it was plain horrible what he did, and how he made them suffer as they were just starting out!!! Also how the townspeople, except for a few, in the beginning just stood by never lifting a finger to help. I was mad, so was Gussie which gives her the strength to finally speak up. She couldn’t stand how people treated Max just for the circumstances of his birth. How was that any of this fault? Gussie couldn’t understand the whys of all and it often left her flabbergasted. Max, who didn’t want trouble, could always smile and appreciate what his Augusta was doing for him. For them. And before they even knew it, they were falling headlong in love with each-other...
The ending was amazing. I wish there was an epilogue of sort but that was okay. I loved it anyway. All in all, Lonestar’s Lady was a beautiful story of two social outsiders destined to find love in one-another. 4.5 stars and recommended. I’m off to check out more of Deborah Camp’s backlist!
PS: I initially thought Babbitt may have some salvation, that he may turn out to be better than how people thought he was. I thought maybe they judged him too harsh.... But nope! By the end of the story I was happy he got thrown in jail and won't be out for a long time. What an a$$! He deserves every single thing that's coming for him. -_-
Review copy received from the author, thanks Deborah. x