A Massachusetts man’s life changes forever when he inherits a Texas brothel from a long-lost relative and falls in love.
Allen’s debut novel tells the story of Alexander Porter, a young, educated Bostonian whose life takes an unexpected turn when his aunt dies and leaves him her business in Texas. Alexander is even more shocked when he travels to Texas and discovers that the business is a brothel. However, he quickly learns to appreciate Texas and the friendly, good-hearted crowd at the brothel, especially the beautiful half-Mexican prostitute Maricruz. The two fall in love and plan for a life together. But they must first face the secrets of Maricruz’s past, some of which threaten to become present, before they can build a future. Allen capably animates the late-1800s Texas backdrop, from ranches and saloons to the social world of the brothel itself. The plot is essentially predictable (though not uninteresting), and the climax boils down to a classic showdown of good vs. evil where the outcome is never really in doubt. But the realistic, 3-D characters more than compensate for an unsurprising outcome. The prostitutes and the people who frequent their establishment (especially an old cowboy who goes by the nickname of “Whiskey Dick”) all seem to have improbable hearts of gold. Furthermore, even though Maricruz is a bit of a stereotypical damsel in distress who has been “worked over especially hard by this life,” the relationships between the characters feel real and endearing. The novel flashes between past and present to reveal Maricruz’s back story, a transition that actually works seamlessly as it is plotted slowly to bring the reader fully into her world. All in all, Allen builds on familiar storytelling tropes to tell a story that is warm and engaging, if not surprising in its journey.
A well-plotted, romantic debut.