"Delicious Irony - Fallen Angel must rid town of Vice"
I love stories that involve redemption for the hero. No,
not a reformed scoundrel, but rather a lost soul in whom
the goodness is merely masked. Cad Rankin had been one such
Post Civil War: For fifteen years Cad had been part of
happy southern family. Then his life took a tragic downward
spiral. Along with his younger brother Michael, he had
watched in horror as northern soldiers brutally murdered
his loving parents.
Two years later Cad lost Michael too. Carpetbaggers had
caught the boys stealing bread in order to survive. The
chase had landed them in the swamp. Cad would never forget
the screams as the only person he had left to care for
succumbed to the snakebite.
The guilt and pain ate at him until he had no emotion left.
He vowed never again to care for anyone, least of all
himself. He became a loner. Not caring if he lived or died,
he indulged only in temporary pleasures, whiskey, and
women. He earned his way cheating at cards, and other
unscrupulous dealings. He was shot dead while robbing a
bank on his thirty first birthday. He couldn't bring
himself to regret it. In a way it was a relief.
As he lay on the undertakers slab, Cad thought that
something wasn't quite right. Then he realized that he was
indeed thinking, even though he definitely wasn't
breathing. That's when Dudley appeared to him.
Cad had thought his torment was over at last, but Dudley
assured him this would only be beginning. His wicked ways
had not earned him a place in heaven. But Dudley had come
with an offer, a chance for Cad to redeem himself. The
angel told him that if he succeeded, he would have another
chance at the life he should have lived. But Cad was
weary, and thought to refuse. That's when Dudley pulled out
the big guns. It had been Michael who had wished for a
second chance for his big brother.
Cad couldn't let his brother down again and so that is how
he found himself on the way to the town of Rough Cut,
Texas, a meaner place as ever there was. His mission was to
clean up the town and make it safe for decent folks.
He would be neither alive, nor dead, rather undead. He
would not need to eat, or sleep, nor could he bleed. He
could feel pleasure, but since whisky, women, and heck,
even cussing, had been forbidden, that wouldn't do him much
good, or so he thought.
Amy Lattimer was making her way to Rough Cut as well, for
very different, and possibly less innocent reasons. Not
that Amy wasn't innocent (she'd grown up in a New Orleans
convent), she just didn't plan to be that way for long. Her
mother had placed her in that convent years ago, after her
daddy left. She'd been told that he had died. Her mother
had loved her though. She'd sent her letters from all over
At twenty two Amy been at the convent longer than any of
the other children. She'd been preparing for an arranged
marriage when the news of her mother's sudden death reached
her. Growing up, Amy had agreed to the wedding, to honor
her mother's wishes, but had hoped for something more.
After meeting her fiance' , she is certain that she could
never love him.
It is then that Amy learns her parents' secrets. Her
mother's diary revealed that Amy's father had not died He'd
left his wife and child behind, to earn his fortune and
had never returned. Her mother had done the only thing she
could do to support herself and her child. She had become a
courtesan. The diary revealed one thing more. The last
place her father had been seen hab been Rough Cut, Texas.
Rather than marry a man she does not love, Amy strikes out
to find her last living relative, to find out why he'd
never returned to them. She really hopes to find work as a
school teacher, but if that doesn't work out, there is
always her mother's profession to fall back on.
Amy is a complication Dudley hadn't forseen. As it becomes
increasingly apparent that Cad and Amy's paths will cross,
he can only ponder whether this will be hiss salvation or
his greatest temptation. Truly it is touch and go, as the
innocent beauty is determined to learn her new trade from
the handsome stranger.
The irony in this story is delicious. Amy is determined to
become a fallen angel, while Cad must find a way to rid the
town of vice to survive. Amy is pure temptation, and the
only way he can think of to keep her pure is by pretending
to be, er, disabled. But Cad isn't made of iron. Will he
accept eternal damnation for one night of heaven in the
arms of the only woman who could make him care again? Can
he live with the guilt when she learns that he's merely a
temporary man? Of course Cad can't become a hero without a
villain to overcome, but that poses further complications.
Neither man knows Amy's true identity, nor that a show down
between them would break her heart, regardless of the
outcome, but as Dudley says, "a good woman is always
stronger than a bad man".
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted March 21, 2002