The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

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Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Accidental Guardian has slightly above average plot and storyline quality and a poignant message for readers. In this new novel, Mary Connealy strives for originality by taking the western romance plot (e.g. Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly) and giving the characters a solid and relatable backstory. While some aspects of the plot are predictable, others are not. In fact, I found this to be the theme of the entire novel. Trace Riley has made the best of the hand life has dealt him. He has his own land, a herd of Longhorns, plans for a house and barn, and a few good hired hands. Trace cools his anger against injustice in the world by regularly patrolling the wagon train trail near his homestead as a kind of self-appointed U.S. Marshal. One day as he and his stallion take their usual trip down the trail, he happens upon two young women and two young children fleeing from a wagon train massacre. Deborah (Deb) and Gwen Harkness left behind their patriarchal roots by agreeing to travel west with a family in need of nannies for their children while on the trail. Gwen uses her mothering talents to do the majority of caring for the children’s basic needs, and Deb helps with cooking, cleaning, laundry, you name it. Deb harbors bitterness in her heart against her patriarchal father who always took full credit for the work she did. You see, back home their father ran the local newspaper…in name only. Deb collected the news stories, wrote, printed, and sold the newspapers; while her father hung out with the leading men and collected the money she made. Deb is determined that she and Gwen will not be forced into servitude at the hands of men again. However, when they are forced to spend the winter at Trace’s, she will find herself serving willingly…and falling in love. Even though Connealy tries to be different in this plot, at the same time she uses much of the same old Hallmark-ish content. I think that Connealy is really trying to be original, and to her credit, I wonder what else could possibly be done different with the western romance plot. It has been done so often that it is hard to take it seriously.

Character Development (2 points)

Connealy does pretty well in the area of character development. Deb is the best character because she has clear strengths and weaknesses, not to mention a developed personality. Trace is pretty good because his past has defined his present, however, Connealy seems to prize his physical attributes more highly than developing his personality. Gwen is the weakest character because she is barely developed past being the good little homemaker. In spite of this, I enjoyed the interaction between the characters, and think that one of Connealy’s stronger points is dialogue. It is for this reason that I think this film has potential to be a romantic comedy film.

Creativity and Originality (.5 point)

Finally, I am giving Connealy a half point in creativity for developing one of the female characters well and for giving her characters good backstories. I think that Connealy has written better books than this one in the past and believe she can do so again. Furthermore, this novel could easily be translated to the big screen, and because the plot is bendable, it could easily be transformed in the hands of a talented screenwriter. I mentioned that it could be a good comedy film because there are some truly funny moments, including but not limited to Trace’s fear of changing diapers. But I don’t want to give everything away….so, I will sum up this review by saying that this book is worth a read if you want a basic love story and a few laughs. I look forward to Connealy’s next work and hope that she will score more points for originality next time.

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points



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