|Vivian Vaughan: Chance of a Lifetime|
Zebra Splendor (paperback), ISBN 0-8217-6149-8
Vivian Vaughan mines the mother lode of classic western romance in Chance of a Lifetime. From the moment green-eyed Indian scout Tremayne nearly rides down feisty, red-haired daughter of the regiment Sabrina Bolton, you know you've landed in archetype territory.
Expected to marry ambitious, young cavalry officer Lon Jasper, the young Sabrina is stunned by the feelings Tremayne's mere presence evokes. Tremayne's reluctant but passionate response amazes her even more. But the obstacles to any chance of a lifetime together appear insurmountable.
Sabrina's mother never recovered from the early death of Sabrina's twin sister, and now devotes all her energy to shaping her daughter into the perfect officer's wife -- for Lon Jasper. Lon and his friendship with the unsavory Senator Carmichael are all that stand between Sabrina's father and court martial.
Hate festers between Lon and Tremayne. The emotion runs too deep on both sides to be the product of simple rivalry or the prejudice the rivals share. It poisons the air at the Indian settlement Tremayne calls home and the trading post Sabrina's father owns in Chihuahua.
Vaughan possesses a remarkable command of place and sensation. Readers will feel the whalebone stays digging into Sabrina's sides as her mother laces her to fit a too-tight gown. The ever-present red dust of a sweltering Texas summer will strafe readers' faces and clog their nostrils.
The psychology of Vaughan's secondary characters proves equally impressive. She captures the awesome impact of children and their unforgiving judgments on adult relationships. Likewise, Vaughan paints a sure, true picture of a catastrophic rape and the way the violation ripples through family and community in post-Civil War Texas.
But romance survives not on its description or minor characters. Readers must identify with the hero and the heroine and follow them willingly down the road to lasting love.
I didn't follow Tremayne and Sabrina down that road; I preceded them. Chance of a Lifetime adheres so closely to the classic model of the Indian/Indian-raised hero and the Army-raised heroine, I found myself predicting the content and page numbers of every major plot "twist." Some readers may find this a virtue; Chance of a Lifetime delivers exactly what its cover promises. With a writer of Vaughan's caliber, I expect more.
Jean Marie Ward
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