Sunday, September 17, 2023

Book Review - A Sweet Misfortune (Virtues and Vices of the Old West, #2) by Maggie Brendan


 A Sweet Misfortune by Maggie Brendan is about a young woman who was kidnapped by a stranger and her life in the aftermath of the kidnapping.  Rachel Matthews  knew that she couldn’t rely on others to take care of her. She has always tried to take care of herself the best she knows how. She is destitute and alone, after her parents died in an accident and her brother leaves town to try to make enough money to buy back the family homestead.

Rachel is determined to make enough money to support herself even if it means taking on an unsavory job prospect. She becomes a dance hall girl and works for tips from the bar patrons. The women who work at the dance hall or saloons, are sometimes given the name of “soiled doves”, meaning that they do more than just dance for money. 

When her brother, Preston, hears of her circumstances, he writes to a friend to help her out as Preston is in California searching for gold and isn’t close enough in proximity to help his sister. Preston is unable to leave his current location because he left to earn money to buy back the family ranch. He asks John McIntyre, a widely admired cattle baron to help rescue her. 

The last thing John McIntyre wants to do is to help Rachel and go into a saloon. He is more focused on his fledgling business and buying more property. He lives to take care of his property and his grandmother, Estelle. However, John is a man of honor and would never refuse a friend in need. So, he strides into the saloon and picks up Rachel right off stage and takes her to his house by horse.

As one can imagine, Rachel didn’t take too kindly to being kidnapped from her job. However, while still upset at John, she still stays with him in hopes that Preston will make the trip down for her. After months go by, Rachel isn’t sure how much longer she can take advantage of John’s and Estelle’s kindness. She isn’t sure how  long she can spend with John after finding out that Preston borrowed money from him and John holds title to her family’s property.  To complicate matters, Rachel starts to feel attracted to John even though she still can’t quite forgive him just yet about her family’s ranch and for kidnapping her. Will Rachel be able to save up enough money to get back her family farm?

The book started off okay but it was a boring and predictable read. I didn’t really care for any of the characters and the story felt dull.  Rachel was confusing as a character. She kept saying how she was proud of her job and was more than happy to go back to it but then she couldn’t wait to leave the saloon. She mentioned that being a dance hall girl is a job that only desperate women take but, then claims the job paid well that she didn’t mind it. I feel like she was trying to convince herself or others that the job isn’t as bad as they think it is but it really is a terrible job to have.  

Annabelle, the housekeeper on John’s farm,  would switch from speaking “proper” English then switch to broken Southern English. It was confusing at times and hard to imagine what this character was like. I did like reading her and Estelle’s lines the best though.  I also didn’t understand why Preston never visited or even attempted to help his sister. He claims that he cares for her but it is later revealed that they barely had any communication when he was searching for gold.

The characters just do wild and bizarre things that makes me question how viable the storyline really is. When Rachel reads a note from someone, she decides at that very moment she needs to go out during horrendous weather to talk to that person. She wasn’t even properly dressed and didn’t even consider how terrible the weather was. John, who is still recovering from a treacherous medical ailment, had an easy time to go out and get her without even seeming to struggle. They made it seem that even the smallest task would be too much for him to handle but apparently riding the freezing blizzard and carrying another person on horseback was no big deal.

The book would go on for pages with no progression to the story.  I wonder if the title was reflecting my feelings on how much it was a misfortune that I was stuck reading the book. It was definitely a relief when I finished the book. Given how boring and predictable this fluff piece was, I don’t think I would be in a rush to read another book by the author.


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