By Jude Deveraux, 1978, Americana/Western (Avon)
Morgan Wakefield was taught by her embittered mother to trust no man. After her father's death, a father she has never known, his will is read. She will inherit only if she marries a man and lives in the New Mexico territory for one year. Her greedy uncle, who will get everything if Morgan does not go acede to her father's wishes, has made plans to take her to Europe until after the deadline of her twenty fifth birthday. She has two days to make a decision. When she meets the handsome Seth Colter and hears that he has a ranch in New Mexico and needs money, she offers him twenty-five thousand dollars for the use of his name and a year's room and board, after which the marriage will be annulled.
He takes her up on her offer, but on the three month journey by covered wagon, wagon love and trust blossom. There are the usual dangers and joys of a road romance, and true happiness appears possible when they finally arrive in New Mexico. Alas, it is only a fleeting happiness because Morgan is kidnapped by a jealous neighbor who blackmails her into writing a Dear John letter. The nasty neighbor, after delivering the missive, shoots Seth and leaves him for dead.
The path forced upon Morgan is ugly and the upshot is that she believes Seth to be dead and he believes Morgan has betrayed him. They meet up in San Fransisco after Seth has left his ranch for the gold rush. Seth is tricked into believing Morgan is a whore. He sneaks into her bedroom, seduces her, throws money on her dresser afterward, and leaves without letting her explain her ordeal.
Morgan is now desolate and pregnant, but Seth has diappeared. When and how will Seth discover he was wrong about Morgan? When he finds her will he be able to convince her to forgive him his mistrust? Will either of them ever learn to trust again?
Jude Deveraux answers these questions and more in a story containing, passion, betrayal, joy and tears. This has been my favorite book for years. In doing this review I had to give a lot of thought to the question of just why is this my favorite book of all those I've read?
I keep coming up with the same answer. Every time I pick it up, I become involved in the story. I want to know what happens to Morgan and Seth. I care if they find one another again. And I can't put the book down til everything is settled one way or another.
The book was first published by Avon in 1978. A friend loaned it to me sometime in 1979. I've bought and loaned several copies since then.
It's a typical historical western. There are the cliche characters - the greedy guardian, the trouble-making ex-lover, and the ever-present whore with the heart of gold. I think each are well written and mostly believable, but it is the lead characters, especially the hero, that makes me love this book.
Morgan Wakefield is a likeable character, although she doesn't quite live up to the promise of a take-charge heroine. She tends to let things happen, then wait for Seth or someone else to rescue her. But then, what woman hasn't wanted a handsome man to charge in and rescue her at least once in her life?
Seth Colter is a man to fall in love with. He's tall, handsome and really good at rescues. He has a tender and romantic side that made me sigh and wonder where I could find one just like him. His biggest flaw is believing the woman he loves has become a whore on the word of drunken strangers playing a joke on the new guy in town. He redeems himself only after deciding that he loves her no matter what she has become and will do anything it takes to win back her love. And, believe me, it wouldn't have taken me nearly as long as it did Morgan to forgive him.
My favorite part of The Enchanted Land is that part after Seth realizes what Morgan means to him and that she did not betray him. The manner in which he learns this is heartfelt and wonderful. I literally race to the end of the book each time I get to this part, even though I obviously know how it will end. It is that good.
Everything considered if I could only pack one book for a trip to a desert island it would have to be this one. Because no matter how many times I read it I always find something to love about and I'm never disappointed.
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