LUCKY PENNY – Catherine Anderson
Western Historical Romance
No Name, Colorado 1891
At age thirty, David Paxton has reason to be satisfied with his life. He has a thriving cattle ranch, most of his family lives nearby, and as town marshal, he has pretty well tamed the town of No Name . But if he's ever going to start his own brood, now is the time. He contemplates proposing to the new schoolteacher. Before he actually does, however, someone from Denver drops a bomb on his desk. The “bomb” is a sack full of letters from a woman claiming to be Mrs. David Paxton begging him to come for her and their daughter. David may have been a bit careless in his younger days, but has no memory of ever marrying…but could he be a father? He should just ignore the whole thing as a mistake by the Denver postmaster. If it weren't for the heartrending letters addressed to Papa from a little girl describing the poverty she and her hardworking mother endure, he would. His conscience sees him off to the little town of Glory Ridge.
Brianna O'Keefe, raised in an orphanage in Boston with her identical twin sister, lives under the invented the name of Mrs. David Paxton after answering an advertisement for a rancher's housekeeper in Colorado . She also pretends her husband is a gold miner near Denver . All this is to safeguard herself as she raises her deceased sister's daughter as her own. The ruse doesn't work perfectly, however; she still has to fend off unwanted advances. The letters she wrote were forced on her by her former employer who wanted to get rid of her, yet was uneasy about casting out a mother and child. At the moment, Brianna and six year-old Daphne live in an attic and nearly starve though she works two jobs and does extra tasks in her “spare time.”
David just wants to satisfy himself that the whole thing is a mistake, but one look at the little girl has him reeling. She looks just as his mother would have looked at that age. The coloring, the shape of the face, the dimple, and even the birthmark on the side of her neck! Though he has no memory whatsoever of the little girl's mother, the girl must be a Paxton!
Brianna denies that David is Daphne's father. She sticks to the story of a gold miner husband, but David had thoroughly investigated that; no such man exists in or around Denver . Though Brianna tries to live as her gentle sister, she has a hot, Irish temperament that is equal to David's own hard-headedness. They wind up taking their case to “court” before a judge and marshal, neither of whom is entirely sober. The judge hears their arguments and summarily pronounces them man and wife—even makes out papers to that effect. Brianna is stuck; David now has the power to take Daphne from her. She must go with him. He says he's taking them home to his family in No Name where he is a respectable citizen. Brianna's fears are founded on her own experiences and on the penny dreadful novels she has read. She's afraid Paxton is taking Daphne to sell below the border and plans to escape at first chance. She who has never ridden a horse in her life.
What follows is a journey that is filled with suspicion on both parts, for David is convinced Brianna is a liar. All the while, David is enchanted by Daphne and the idea of being a father. The two quickly establish a loving relationship that is, oh, so charming. Is Daphne a Paxton? Does it really matter?
Chalk up LUCKY PENNY as another magical tale from the marvelous Catherine Anderson. No one can fail to be moved by her lively and lifelike characters who overcome difficult obstacles while maintaining their honor and humanity. Brianna and David still have a long way to go to reach their happy ending, but I guarantee readers will be swept along with them. They will be helped by David's close family, some of whom starred in their own books. Many of Ms. Anderson's novels, contemporary and historicals, are connected, though all of them stand alone. Those that revolve around a Paxton began with KEEGAN'S LADY. Ace Keegan is David's older half brother who brought up the Paxtons after their father died. Next is Joseph Paxton in SUMMER BREEZE and sister Eden Paxton in EARLY DAWN (also connected to the Coulter family series). After LUCKY PENNY, we can look forward to brother Esa's tale yet to come.
For a heartwarming, entertaining, and spellbinding read, I highly recommend LUCKY PENNY.