A Stolen Time
by Shari Boullion, historical (2003)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5229-6
In a way, A Stolen Time has enough rough edges in plot and characterization to really drive home the fact that it is a debut novel. Nonetheless, the author also shows that she can tell a light-hearted, often engrossing tale. While her heroine is pretty well-drawn, the hero however is a stock stereotypical Western lawman type that doesn't work too well.
Our heroine Janet Garret is on the run. She, with her brothers, is part of the Garret Gang led by her father. During their most recent heist, her father is shot, she shot someone, and now, her father is gone, her brother is in jail, and she's the new schoolmarm of idyllic homely apple pie town Shasta. She says that this new gig is only temporary - when her brother gets out, he and she will find a way to get on with their lives. For now, she'll lay low and hope the law doesn't catch up with her. Alas, she just has to fall for the town marshal Dagger Blackstone. Dagger has vowed vengeance on the fellow that shot and crippled his brother Blade. (With a name like Blade, he's probably just bitter he's not dead from the gunshot.) How can Janet tell Dagger that she's the one that shot Blade? And more importantly, will their kids be named Knife, Scimitar, Cleaver, and Katana?
This is a Big Secret story. But while sometimes Janet's "Misunderstood, Woe, Shame" act annoys me, I find that the author never actually puts her characters in situations that make me fear for a few burst blood vessels in the brain. Janet is pretty fun as a heroine who can shoot and cuss like a saloon gal while learning to fit in for the first time with people that are willing to welcome her. Ms Boullion is less successful is the hero. Dagger, stupid name aside, is also a sketchily written character who's more like a patchwork of loner brooder lawman clichés. His romance with Janet doesn't really work because I find it hard to understand what is so appealing in Dagger. He's like a cardboard cutout advertisement for some honky-tonk bar.
A Stolen Time may not be a particularly memorable book, but it does suggest that Shari Boullion will do much better given time and experience. The story is written in a clear and enjoyable style and the heroine really isn't bad at all. If the hero isn't such a cookie-cutter bore, the book will make Shari Boullion truly an author to keep watch for. We'll have to wait and see, I guess.
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