Everybody in McDade
thought of Dellie O’Barr as “the good little sister.” Dellie has
always done what her father and brother wanted on the family farm;
she even married the suitor her older sister stood up – an earnest
man with a college education and a fine house in town. Dellie has
always done the proper thing.
Always that is, until
now. Out of the blue, she finds herself falling for a stranger, a
man stirring up the countryside with his fiery Populist speeches.
Clearly, no good can come of it – he’s an out-and-out
rabble-rouser, a man set on disturbing the turn-of-the-century
status quo on farms all over Central Texas. And he’s
And then, for the love
of this man, Dellie O’Barr tosses aside her own status – a
privileged life and perfect reputation – and opens herself to
whispers of adultery and disloyalty. Not only that, she’s suspected
of burning down a local store hostile to her lover and his Populist
followers. And when he flees town, she leaves her rich husband to
chase after him.
As much about married
love as forbidden love, The Passion of Dellie
O’Barr is the story of a singular woman’s life and of the
lives of the two men she chooses as lovers. One, Andrew Ashland, is
a dynamic political crusader. The other, Daniel O’Barr, is the man
she leaves behind – the man who waits for her to come back home and
stand by her when she returns to the scandalized town of
Cindy Bonner’s third
novel is set in Texas at the end of the nineteenth century. It is
an exciting tale of passion and human frailty. Bonner breathes life
into a romantic drama of complex, believable men and women set
against the backdrop of Texas history she know so
Willie Betts opened
the door. He looked at me as if I were a ghost. I was surely a
stranger to him. I doubted he would remember me from the Veterans’
Reunion. He wore an ink-stained printer’s apron. Even the shirt
underneath was smudged with black, though he wore sleeve protectors
to his elbows.
this the office of the Plaindealer?” I asked. My voice
sounded tinny and childish.
the door opened up wider and Andy Ashland was standing there, to
the rear and left of Mr. Betts. When Andy saw me, he let out a
friendly laugh. “Well. Look who’s here. I thought that sounded like
you.” He took my arm and pulled me inside. Mr. Betts shut the door
startled me to have Andy’s hand on my arm. I may have jumped
slightly. At any rate, he let go. I stood there, foolishly
shifting, glancing around at the layout tables, the press, the
stack of clean newspapers on top of a battered desk. The air
smelled close, and sharply of ink, even with the three open
came to place an advertisement,” I said.
what?” Mr. Betts said.
looked at Andy. He was smiling. “You want to contribute something
to the paper?”
A social item. We need to – or rather, Professor Mauney at the
academy is trying to find lodging for the thirty teachers coming
for the Summer Normal School that begins the twenty-fourth of
June.” I was relieved to have the whole thing out. Andy kept
smiling at me as if I hadn’t spoken.
Mr. Betts said, seeming confused.
looked at both of them in turn. “Can’t I put that in your
social item?” Mr. Betts didn’t act as if he believed me.
sure,” Andy said. “Why not. If we can print the stud fees for Early
Horner’s bull, we can print this.”
moved to the desk, picked up a pen, and dipped it into an open ink
jar. He wrote down everything I had said, and I couldn’t help but
notice he spelled all the words correctly. His penmanship was bold
and flourishing, almost feminine. His straw hat lay in front of me
beside the stack of newspapers on the desk. I had the nearly
irresistible urge to reach with my finger and touch the tiny
feather stuck down in the tan hatband encircling the
should they contact” he said, and I jumped again, startled. He gave
me another grin, this one quieter.
wrote down “contact school” and sharply underlined each word. Then
he raised up and seemed about to say something else. His eyes were
gentle, smiling, interested, if only at the oddity of me being
at that moment, the door burst open. It flew against the wall so
hard, the knob chipped off some plaster. And Mr. Bassist stood
there on the landing, red in the face and clutching a wad of
newsprint in his large hand. I could hear his breath.
You trying to start a war with me?” He was so angry he couldn’t
even say the first word of his sentences. His German accent had
flooded into his pronunciations. He shook his thick first finger.
“Will never win. Hear me? Never! Never!”
threw the wad of newsprint down at his feet and stepped on it,
grinding the sole of his black, square-toed walking shoes into the
paper. He glared, huffed loudly, then went back downstairs. The
door at the bottom slammed hard.
office was silent, so silent the sounds from the Masonic
Celebration outside on the square came ringing in through the open
windows. Then both of them laughed out at the same time. And they
kept at it for some little while, until Andy flopped down in the
rolling desk chair and wiped at his eyes.
Betts got hold of himself then, too, and said, “I thought for a
minute there, he might spontaneously combust right before our
pull out a pistol,” Andy said,
did you do to him?” I said and both of them looked at me as if they
just remembered my presence.
Betts stuffed his handkerchief down in his vest pocket and jerked
up a paper from the neat stack on the desk. He stuck it in my
hands. “Bottom of the page.”
had never before held a copy of the Plaindealer. Down at the bottom
of the page was an article about Mr. Bassist, how he had refused to
sell Andy a bottle of horse expectorant. It was also in there about
the gross difference in Bassist’s cash and credit prices, and that
the interest he charged amounted to over 60 percent. The headline
read A WARNING TO HONEST FARMERS and there was some Scripture from
the Book of Nehemiah: “Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day,
their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses,
also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, wine, and
the oil, that ye exact of them.”
lifted my face from the paper and saw Andy watching me read. I was
suddenly, inexplicably afraid for him. “Why did you write this? Are
you trying to stir up trouble?”
it needs stirring up,” Andy answered. “Don’t you think folks oughta
know the way Louis Bassist conducts his business? So maybe they
won’t start trading with him in the first place?”
look at him, no one would ever suspect he had a rebellious spirit,
that he could write a fine hand and compose articles for a
newspaper complete with Bible verse. He looked like such a plain
man, an everyday man. I took a deep breath. I couldn’t believe that
someone would deliberately pick a fight with Mr. Bassist. He owned
most of the downtown district, and he furnished about three hundred
families in the area. And I had never – until Andy Ashland – heard
an unkind word spoken against him. I reached for the slip of paper
where Andy had written my advertisement.
you shouldn’t print this,” I said.
grabbed my hand. “We want to.”
drew away from his grasp, and held my hand to my chest, thinking I
should have never come up here. It was foolish of me and impulsive;
brash. I felt I had stepped into something that had nothing
whatever to do with me. I moved backwards toward the
"Bonner spins her yarn out of excellent cultural research, and
her gift as a remarkable storyteller." -- The Indianapolis
"Bonner does more than hold us rapt with her storytelling
skills; she also reveals the transforming power of love." --