Thursday, August 11, 2016

REVIEW: Male-Order Catalogue by Fleeta Cunningham #Western #Historical #Romance

While ordering a birthday gift from a mail order catalog, Lavinia Cates remembers her sister's comment that life would be easier if one could just order a beau the same way. She contemplates the idea and, on a whim, fills out a fantasy order for the handsome gent in the cashmere mackintosh on another page. In 1900, a spinster of 24 has little hope of marriage, but with Matt Holland, the handsome railroad agent, taking an interest in her, Lavinia might change her expectations. 
When he’s not courting Lavinia, Matt hunts for train robbers, tries to stop the notorious Jessups from selling homemade “white lightnin’,” and partners with a Texas Ranger. Along the way he learns why he was warned that Texas ladies have a lot of determination—and are handy with shotguns.

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RATING: 4.5 Stars 

It has been a very long time since I read a Western/Historical Romance as well-written and enjoyable as ‘Male-Order Catalogue’.  And despite the amusing title, the book is not a romantic comedy; there’s serious romance, mystery, and suspense along the way.

It’s 1900, and in Santa Rita, Texas, Lavinia Cates is feeling very sad and lonely – her parents are long dead; one sister is now in New York, living with their cousin; the youngest sister, Lilah Rose, has just run off to marry a young man from a very reprehensible family; and Lavinia, at 24, is facing spinsterhood.  She definitely isn’t happy about Lilah’s marriage, but she refuses to just turn her back.  She decides to order Lilah a gift, and finds a nice item in the 1900 Sears Roebuck catalog. Then she remembers a whimsical conversation about being able to order a beau in the same way. To try to cheer herself up, she fills out a fake order, for a very attractive man modelling a mackintosh, figuring it’s something she can look at in the days ahead, and laugh.

It’s now approaching Christmas. In Chicago, Pinkerton agent Matt Holland is spending some time with an old friend, who just happens to be an executive of Sears Roebuck. They share a little laugh about an order the company recently got, for a man modelling a mackintosh.  The company returned the woman’s check, along with a message saying that the requested ‘product’ was no longer available.  Matt laughs again, when he learns where the order came from: Santa Rita, Texas.  That’s where he’s heading next, to pose as a railroad agent while he investigates a series of thefts.  Once there, he can’t quite resist looking for the woman who placed the order - someone named Lavinia Cates. By accident, this was the order Lavinia sent, instead of the one for Lilah’s gift.

So a romance begins, weaving through Lavinia’s worries about her sister, and Matt’s hunt for the robbers.  Everything is very appealing and skillfully executed, moving along at a good pace: the entrancing romance, the suspenseful search for the thieves, and varied interactions with the people of Santa Rita.  Lavinia and Matt are wonderfully drawn, and most of the other characters are interesting and believable as well.  I enjoyed reading this book, enough to rate it well worth 4.5 stars. 

I am very grateful for the reviewer’s copy I was sent.

Reviewed by: Roberta

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