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The woman, the wimp, the wanton, and the wicked substitute for believable characters in an overplotted western set during the Gold Rush. The woman, tough-talking but virtuous Sophie, sails the Salud Y Amor into San Francisco harbor with two goals: to sell the ship's cargo and to search for her missing sister, Annebelle, with whom she shares a psychic link. Accosted by drunken miners as soon as she leaves the ship, Sophie rebuffs Captain Ruari McKay's offer of assistance. Ruari, the wimp, fails to recognize Sophie, now in feminine clothing, as the cabin boy whose determination--and pistol--prevented his claiming the Salud Y Amor as salvage. But once informed of his mistake, Ruari is instantly smitten with Sophie and conducts an inept courtship during which he's caught in her sister Annebelle's bed and fails to rescue his injured beloved from a burning building. Annebelle, the wanton, has discovered sex for fun and profit, amassing a fortune in gold and real estate that includes Thomas Fry's emporium. Thomas, the wicked, first cheats Sophie out of her ship's cargo, then beats her unmercifully when he returns to take the Salud. Annebelle retaliates on her sister's behalf by raising his rent. The vengeful Thomas kidnaps the prostitutes from her brothel and sells them to a white slavery ring controlled by a local Chinese tong. Meanwhile, Annebelle and Sophie quarrel over Ruari, leading to a break in the sisters' presumed psychic link without noticeably weakening the author's reliance on telepathy to explain the convoluted plot. By the close, true love and sisterhood will prevail. Superficial historical detail, cartoon characters, and ludicrous plotting: Harlequin author Zavala offers neither good genre fiction nor successful parody.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Forge/Tor