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The Scoundrel    by Lisa Plumley order for
by Lisa Plumley
Order:  USA  Can
Harlequin, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Lisa Plumley returns to 1882 Morrow Creek Arizona in this sequel to The Matchmaker. Ladies man Daniel McCabe is content with his life and commiserating with his friends about the 'endless variety of females for a man to sample'. Nor is he a 'man for settling down'. But all that abruptly ends when his presence is requested at the train depot to 'pick up a delivery'. When the parcel turns out to be a black-haired boy who's the spitting image of Daniel, he's shocked, and certain that 'by morning rumor would have it that he'd fathered ten bastards between swallowing his morning coffee and arriving at the depot' since 'that was the way of things in Morrow Creek'.

Two months later Daniel is at his wits end caring for his rapscallion nephew Eli. While most townsfolk are convinced the boy is his biological son, Daniel insists that the child is his nephew, sent to him by his globetrotting sister, who remarried and hared off to Europe on her extended honeymoon. The only one who believes Daniel is Sarah Crabtree. She and Daniel have been fast friends since childhood and she knows he would never lie. But for Sarah, that friendship long ago turned to love, not that Daniel has ever noticed! Now he's proclaiming he 'needs a wife'. As he lists his particular requirements, he suddenly comes to realize that Sarah, with all her sterling attributes, would make an excellent wife. Not the romantic proposal she'd hoped for, to be sure, but Sarah agrees to marry Daniel, determined to show him how to move past his notions of friendship and love her as much as she has always loved him.

Plumley pens another fine story here, filled with wonderful characters, great atmosphere, and smart and often witty dialogue. The author's distinctive voice and stellar writing adds panache to this lively historical. It's fun to see the wind knocked out of Daniel's confirmed bachelor sails, and even more fun to watch him charmed and then slowly but surely seduced into falling in love with the determined Sarah. There are plenty of great secondary characters too (especially Sarah's modern thinking family) and Plumley sets things up nicely for a developing relationship between suffragette Grace Crabtree and Irish saloon owner Jack Murphy, both of whom claim they 'can't stand each other' - a perfect formula for another fiery romance.

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