13 January 2011


Character Connection 18

Read about Merricat Blackwood and other great characters
at the Introverted Reader!

I've just remembered another writer I've read a lot of who can, on some golden occasions, pull out a minor character who steals every scene from his leads. I just finished an old novel of his this week and knew I couldn't let another Character Connection link up go by without featuring the following character, who made me laugh out loud for hours afterwards.

Mrs. Horace Dean
by Leigh Greenwood

"Horace, it will always be a mystery to me how you became a colonel in the army. I declare, if I hadn't been around to watch after you, you'd have been cashiered long ago."

"Always knew you were smarter than I am," her husband said, his affability unimpaired. "I tell everybody. Quite proud of you."

His obvious pride didn't smooth his wife's ruffled feathers.

. . .

"Horace, if I thought it would do the least good, I would brain you with the first solid object I got my hands on . . ."

When Mrs. Dean storms out of the restaurant at the end of that scene, she doesn't bother to look back and see whether her husband is following. As the title character muses, the man obviously always follows her lead. And is quite happy to do it. But there's no feeling sorry for the henpecked Horace Dean when he thinks all men should be so lucky to have a wife as wonderful as his own.

It took me a couple more scenes, but I soon realised that Mrs. Dean was a treasure of a character. In fact, she reminded me very much of Peggy O'Dowd from William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, one of my favourite characters of all time. While I was reading Thackeray's novel, there were times when she was so incredibly annoying that I wished the main characters would run off and find more tolerable company . . . and times when she was simply the best person to have around and I was glad the leads were in her capable hands. And she was, at all times, the same character through and through: Thackeray had made her such a perfect blend of flaws and virtues that everyone--whether reader or fellow character--had to take her exactly as she was. Which is exactly how we have to take people we know in real life. (Wow. I think I just gave him the greatest compliment a novelist could ever want.)

Well, Leigh Greenwood is no Thackeray . . . but don't let his Mrs. Dean take that as an insult! The first time she meets the hero, she is so convinced that he is an impostor that even after the sheriff tells her that her accusations are unfounded, she takes matters into her own hands and becomes nothing but trouble. I was amazed at her cheek when she invites herself to the hero and heroine's ranch house, insisting that it is her Christian duty to live there until she is proven right, so that he cannot compromise the heroine further. And I'm still chuckling at her threat to throw herself across the marriage bed, if necessary, to keep them from doing anything in it. Such a statement implies that she thinks her physical presence is necessary, when I'm sure the very thought of her in a bed would do the trick. (LOL!!!)

But the sweet twist is that she proves to be as much trouble to the baddies as she is to our leads. Indeed, when the heroine finds herself forced to stay in the villain's ranch house, she knows to send for Mrs. Dean immediately . . . and the domineering dowager once again simply barges in, declares that nobody will compromise the younger woman under her watch, and leaves the lecherous villain completely stymied. (Bwahahahahahaha!!!)

And that's Mrs. Horace Dean through and through: an old, bullying busybody whom even the characters who wish she would stop meddling in their business know has no equal when it comes to having their backs.

Image Source: Pete by Leigh Greenwood


Risa said...

Lol! She sounds like so much fun! I've never come across this author before...but then again, I've never read any westerns. Do this author's novels stand alone or do they come in series?

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, she's definitely hilarious! I had to restrain myself from describing her finest moment in the novel, as that would have been too much of a spoiler! =P

Leigh Greenwood's books are pretty much all interconnected, with some popular characters even crossing over from their own series. And the first books have been pretty hard for me to find (I have to resort to crossing my fingers while browsing used bookstores), although I suppose an American reader would have an easier time tracking them all down.

But I think it's safe to say most of those in the Cowboys series (which is where Pete belongs) can be read as stand-alone novels. Greenwood lets the connected characters wander far from their main ranch to have their adventures, and it's rare for their siblings or parents to pop up all of a sudden. The Seven Brides series (in which all the titles are women's "flower names"), on the other hand, has the seven brothers showing up in each other's stories over and over. I started that one in the middle because I had no choice, but I really wish I could have read it from the beginning!

IntrovertedJen said...

I think just the thought of her would spoil any *ahem* amorous moments for me! That was a great line!

She certainly sounds like a handful, and maybe like one of those women whom you don't know whether to hug or strangle.

Enbrethiliel said...


If I knew her, she'd make me swing back and forth between the desire to hug and the desire to strangle! LOL! But she's also one of the good guys of the world--if not the salt of the earth, then one of the sharper spices of the earth--and all the other characters know it. =)