BOOK OF THE WEEK
In Marie Romero Cash’s book “The Word Thief,” a novel fusing drama and crime with flecks of romance, Lizbeth Newman assumes the onerous task of completing her late father’s half-finished manuscript.
Lizbeth is a freelance writer, while her late father, Anthony Fox Newman, was an internationally known, prolific, best-selling mystery writer.
Lizbeth faces several major roadblocks to complete his manuscript, several of which she is aware of. One is zero experience as a novelist.
A second is the pressure of time; her father’s New York publisher requires the full manuscript in six months.
If the deadline isn’t met, the six-figure advance he received must be repaid. Not repaying it is an unacceptable option for Lizbeth. She knows her father’s estate would face bankruptcy and that, in turn, would void the charitable bequests he had made in his will.
There’s another obstacle that Lizbeth slowly learns more and more about.
It is in the form of the handsome, silver-tongued Gary Gorman. A budding novelist, he plots his chance to steal Newman’s outlines and chapter notes.
The scheming Gary plans to purloin Newman’s research as the basis for his own book.
To keep Lizbeth from suspecting him, Gary makes a play for Lizbeth’s affections, flattering her with deceit. Gary monopolizes Lizbeth’s precious hours to keep her from completing her father’s manuscript.
Gary is, you guessed it, the “word thief” in the title. He is presumably the tall man who breaks into Lizbeth’s home, too. Presumably, because the burglar isn’t identified.
At the same time, Gary is a thief of hearts. Lizbeth is vulnerable.
Jilted once, she is still seeking a sincere romantic partner in her life.
She thinks she may be attracted to Gary.
But Lizbeth’s good friend Jane and her therapist keep her on track, emotionally and organizationally. Their sound advice bolsters Lizbeth’s effort to find the inner strength to write a credible complete manuscript and meet the manuscript deadline.
Her strength is also driven by the enduring spirit of her father. In her head, she hears him urge her, “You can do this, Lizzie.” Lizbeth answers his declaration with an unspoken assertion: “Yes, Daddy. I know I can.”
Romero Cash’s novel is set in Santa Fe, where she was born and raised, and where she has lived most of her life.
Santa Fe locations and events are sprinkled throughout “The Word Thief.”
For example, there’s a reference to The Shed, a popular restaurant just off the Plaza where late in the novel Lizbeth confronts Gary with his lies, his hypocrisy.
The reader also learns about The Shed: “… a Santa Fe landmark for over 75 years, specializing in traditional New Mexico dishes smothered in ear-popping red or green chile and popular Margaritas.”
Another building referred to is the Hilton Hotel (actually Hilton Santa Fe), where Gary, visiting from Oklahoma City, checks in. It states that the hotel was “built on the site of a 300-year-old historic Santa Fe hacienda owned by the affluent Ortiz family …”
A few annual events in the City Different are also mentioned, among them the Santa Fe Fiesta and the International Folk Art Market. At the market’s Friday night gala, the Newman family is being recognized for its longtime support of the market.
Gary makes his move. He meets Lizbeth for the first time at the gala.
Meanwhile, he slides into a different surname, Harmon, after a friend of the Newmans misunderstands Gary’s last name.
From a ticket seller Gary learns about the event’s dress code. He’s told, “This is Santa Fe. Whatever you wear to a black-tie event without the black tie. In other words, dress casual.”
Santa Fe is certainly a character in “The Word Thief” just as it was in Romero Cash’s Jemimah Hodge mystery series.
“Santa Fe is a presence,” the author said in a phone interview. “You can’t call it a city, a town or a village. It’s a presence and it has a lot of energy. Santa Fe is special to me. That’s why I write about it.”
Besides being a writer, Romero Cash is also an award-winning woodcarver and santera.