The Devil's Daughter

Laura Drewry
2008, Frontier/Western Hist Romance (1880s Texas)
Leisure Books, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0843960485

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

NOTE: The author has republished this book as an eBook, and you can find it at Amazon.

There are some books that just sound like they shouldn't work. At first blush, The Devil's Daughter appeared to be one of these. A plot involving not a figure of speech, but the Devil's actual daughter - and one described as a "love and laughter romance" to boot - sounded like it could end up being just a touch twee for my tastes. However, readers who look beyond the 80s throw back cover (seriously, the male model looks like he has both a perm and a mini-mullet), will find a fun little treat of a story.

The novel opens at a bride auction in 1880s Texas. A lovely young lady in a silk dress spots a man and knows instantly that he has what she seeks. Though the man in question has his own ideas about what he is looking for and suspects that an elegant lady will not suit him or his hardscrabble farm, Lucy Firr convinces him to choose her anyway. Intrigued by the lady whose dainty appearance stands at odds with her work-roughened hands and brazen speech, Jed Caine agrees to marry her.

Unknown to Jed, Miss Firr has her own special reasons for choosing him. Lucy wishes to escape her life in Hell and in order to do that, she must live up to the bargain offered her by her father - the soul of a newborn in exchange for herself. Lucy has set herself the task of delivering the soul of the soon-to-be-born child of Jed's brother. The fact that Jed and his sister-in-law stand between her and the baby are mere collateral damage.

While this premise sounds terribly cold, the execution saves it. Drewry has a humorous touch with her story that relieves the darkness without becoming too campy. Lucy's flirtatiousness and humor make her entertaining, but watching her develop feelings and a conscience makes for an interesting story. Likewise, seeing Jed and Lucy learn to respect one another and gradually fall for each other is both tender and entertaining. The relationship between Lucy and Jed has aspects of both passion and companionship to it, and that balance holds my interest far more than the constant lust stories out there.

My only real complaints with the book are that some of the conflict seemed a little contrived, and I think this came in part because the world-building felt thin in places. Lucy's bargain and how it worked made sense in some respects, but if one looks a little too hard at the details, things fall apart. This does not cause problems at first, but it does make for a few eye-rolling moments as one gets deeper into the story.

Even with the weak moments, The Devil's Daughter manages to charm readers with its tale of love and quite literal redemption. Those who need lots of realism in their historicals may not go for this one, but then again, I think it's pretty obvious that the perfect accuracy crowd isn't the target audience for this book anyway. If you can suspend your disbelief for a bit, this is a fun few hours' jaunt into an Old West that probably never quite existed.

-- Lynn Spencer

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