In a fresh take on the wagon train western, Susan Page Davis takes a titled Englishwoman and her lady’s maid over an ocean, across a continent, and past a few cow pies on their way to find the new Earl of Stoneford – and an unexpected chance at love – along the Oregon Trail.
HERE’S THE SITCH:
When the Earl of Stoneford dies, Elise Finster and her young British mistress, Lady Anne Stone, must travel to America in search of Lady Anne’s missing uncle. If Elise and Lady Anne don’t find David Stone, the Stoneford lands will either be claimed and ruined by a ruthless cousin or dispersed at the King’s discretion.
Elise and Lady Anne are ill-prepared for the rigorous journey they must embark upon when they learn David’s American trail leads westward. Even the wagon train’s scout, Eb Bentley, tries to discourage the two from their quest. But the ladies’ uncommon determination, poise, and beauty cause the men of the wagon train, even stodgy widower Eb, to take note of the two British ladies. It isn’t long before Eb himself becomes a frequent visitor at their fireside, seeking the company of a certain Lady’s Maid.
But a spy is close at hand – a man charged with keeping Lady Anne from finding her uncle at any cost. Will two refined English ladies be able to thwart his mischief and survive the westward trip? Or will they, like so many before them, fall victim to the Oregon Trail?
HITS & MISSES:
This story was warm and hope-affirming, allowing the trail romance to grow at a tender pace. There’s not much of a heat factor between the two mature romantic leads, but their story is sweet and, as such, was gently played and squeaky clean. This is a novel you can be comfortable sharing with any age of woman – even your ultra-conservative great-grandma.
I found the author’s premise interesting and original. After all, how many tales of the Oregon Trail start in England? And how many romances feature a nearly forty-year-old servant as the heroine? The Lady’s Maid is an enjoyable western romance, if a tad unbelievable at times; but I’ll be honest: the ending was a huge letdown.
WHAT MADE ME SQUIRM:
You guessed it: the ending.
(SPOILER ALERT! Skip this section if you want to experience this novel without prejudice.)
Throughout this book the reader is led to believe that Elise, Eb, and David will eventually circle their wagons in a climactic love triangle. In that, the reader is bound to be disappointed. David Stone, the expected third corner of the romance, never (did you catch that? NEVER.) makes a physical appearance in the novel.
What?! But I thought I ordered a love triangle!
Well, that’s not what I was served. In fact, the ending had such a lack of resolution concerning the search for David Stone (and Elise’s girlhood crush on him) that I was actually a little bit angry when I finished reading it. My anger wasn’t the anticipatory whine of “Oh, snap! Now I have to wait for the sequel?” either; it was more along the lines of, “That was ridiculously unsatisfying.”
There is a spot of good news amidst my disappointment, however. A sequel is, in fact, in the works and, even though I was a little disgusted at how easily Elise abandoned her long-held attraction to David before even finding him, I am curious to see how Lady Anne’s story will unfold in Book Two.
So lest you think I’m a big meanie, harping on the lack-of-a-love triangle issue, I will say that The Lady’s Maid is a good book. In fact, I liked it a lot -- right up until the end. And, with a sequel promised, we at least have reason to hope that one mystery (whether or not Anne’s Uncle David is willing to assume his role as the Earl of Stoneford) will be solved at some point in this series.
TO READ, OR NOT TO READ; THAT IS THE QUESTION:
If you’re a fan of sweet western romance, I recommend this novel for the originality of seeing the rigors of the wagon train era through the eyes of an English gentlewoman. But (there’s always a “but”, isn’t there?) my recommendation comes with a caveat: unless you plan to hang your hope on the sequel, you may find the unsatisfactorily-resolved romantic conflict a bit difficult to swallow.
(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog Happy Ever After.)Serena's Rating: