Royce O’Bannon plays the fiddle as a man possessed. Unlike his brother Quinn, Royce takes after his whisky-sodden, vengeful old man, Stanley O’Bannon, and defiantly admits to being a reprobate, irredeemable in the eyes of good society, a lost cause bound to hang and burn in hell. He also figures God hadn’t made the woman who could tame the beast that lurked deep down in his worthless Irish soul. No woman should have anything to do with him. Then one frosty night, at a town social, he sees her, the crippled goddess, Cleantha Arnaud, the schoolmaster’s daughter, a wounded bird, beautiful, fragile and way above his touch. With Cleantha accompanying him on the piano, keeping up with his unrelenting pace, they play jig after jig, waltz after waltz, schottische after schottische. Cleantha intrigues him as no other woman before, and if he reads the gleam in her river-green eyes correctly, the feeling is mutual.
Even a reprobate like Royce O’Bannon suffers from a twinge of conscience from time to time, and although he despises himself for it, he can’t take advantage. But Cleantha, driven by her own needs and desires, puts forth a challenge no reprobate could refuse. In Cleantha, Royce gets a glimpse of what could be. He begins to think he too could have a wife, a real home, love and security, a life he assumed unattainable, beyond his reach. For a few fleeting moments, he believes the dream could become a reality.
But can he do what has to be done to win the woman of his dreams?
A Laura Creek Novel
Time Frame: Post Civil War
Heat Level: 3
Rating Review: 4.5 Stars
Review by Susan:
The American expansion pushing westward becomes the backdrop for Dorothy Bell’s historical romance The Reprobate from Freya’s Bower Publishing. The book is a part of the author’s Laura Creek collection focusing on the microcosm of the rustic settlement of Laura Creek, Oregon. In this installment, Bell writes about the romance that blossoms between Royce O’Bannon and Cleantha Arnaud.
A self-proclaimed reprobate, Royce buries his self-pity in binges of ceaseless drinking and reckless rutting with women. His young brother Quinn recognizes the destructive behavior but is powerless to stop it. Motherless and shackled to a self-serving father, the two brothers are bound by the Fourth Commandment, thou shall honor thy mother and father causing them to become accomplices to their father’s treacherous scheme and extracting revenge on their cousin Wren Longtree now a resident of Laura Creek.
Bell crafts an assortment of characters each unique and specific to real individuals. They express traits that readers will recognize and feel they have encountered in real life such as the overbearing Richard Arnaud and the manipulating Stanley O’Bannon. The trappings that hold Royce and Cleantha like caged pets in their respective situations are made vividly clear through Bell’s narration of the characters living conditions with their fathers.
The emotionally crippled Royce and the physically challenged Cleantha form a genuine alliance first as friends then as lovers enchanting readers with their rising passion for each other. The bends in their path have a comfortable flow drawing readers into their world and going through the maze along with the characters.
The Reprobate has a plot that continually moves from one summit to the next morphing Royce O’Bannon into a romantic hero with flaws and strengths that make him both human and attractive. He is the-next-door type of guy and most definitely somebody who exists in present day though the story is set in the 1880’s.