John Hamilton Wilde, a former high school football star and West Point graduate, is now a four-star general and owner of a ranch rich in livestock and oil rights. He’s also the patriarch of not one but two families. As the novella begins, old man Wilde is improving his acquaintance with Jack Daniels while tormenting himself with guilty thoughts of people he’s let down, beginning with his father. As a handsome, reckless, girl-magnet football star, John would have seemed like a Texas rancher’s dream son. Nevertheless, Amos Wilde favored John’s minutes-older fraternal twin brother: “Alden was the son worth having. Johnny…Johnny had been a mistake from the second he’d exited his dying mother’s womb.” After Alden’s death in a terrible accident, John took up the burden of his father’s expectations, excelling for the first time in his studies and going to West Point, after which he quickly climbed the military’s promotion ladder. Without quite meaning to, John became a bigamist, raising one family in Italy (where he owns a small house) with gorgeous, fiery Angelica and another in Texas with Connie, the geographical separation allowing him to compartmentalize for a good 30 years. In the end, though, John will have to face his choices when he reaches a crisis point as the parts of his life he’d kept separate collide. In this short work, Marton deftly establishes why and how John blames himself for what wasn’t his fault (and excuses himself for what is), though she overstates the point somewhat. She sketches quick, personality-revealing scenes, which help mitigate some of her more clichéd creations such as the Texas football hero or the hot-blooded Sicilian.
Fast-paced and sharp, despite some repetition of themes and familiar character types.