by Merline Lovelace, historical (2002)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-871-8
Merline Lovelace's The Colonel Daughter is a road trip Western romance. It has a great if sometimes sensibility-free heroine, a stereotypical and rather boring silent-hero archetype dude, and lots of adventures. It's not a bad book, but the story just doesn't come alive as it promised to be at the first few chapters.
Suzanne Bonneaux, who was a brat in The Horse Soldier, is now a young lady trying to juggle her finishing school polish with the wild, no-nonsense tomboy girl inside. She is riding a coach to Deadwood to meet a friend of hers in some urgent mission, but things never go as planned, eh?
The coach gets robbed by a gang led by Big Nose George Parrot, and in the process, some overexcited fellow lets loose a few gunshots. In the confusion that follows, Suzanne, a nice young boy, a merchant, and a surly macho cowboy dude get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The macho dude, Black Jack Sloan, is not letting any delay stop him in his usual Quest for Vengeance that drives his life. Suzanne decides to tag along when he refuses to let her hire him as an escort to Deadwood. Adventures and hilarity - okay, just some hilarity - ensue.
Oh, Jack. This is one guy who dresses to the occasion and has the mannerisms and speech of a spaghetti Western hero down pat, he may as well wear a giant billboard on his cowboy hat saying "Yo! Hero Here Out To Get Your Sorry Sad Bums!" in ten vivid glows of neon. Of course he doesn't want any woman tagging along, but our spunky heroine just refuses to take no for an answer.
The author draws up life on the Western high life amazingly. Sometimes I wonder if I've actually feeling the sweltering sun on me as the author creates beautiful atmosphere, taking me all the way into her story. But while the secondary characters are fun, and Suzanne is an infectiously pragmatic yet optimistic and feitsy heroine, the romance is rather mundane. Jack is so disappointingly one-dimensional, even if he's a well-done one-dimensional spaghetti hero.
Nonetheless, The Colonel's Daughter is very readable. It's high adventure and the usual heroine-leads-hero-back-to-redemption plot all in one. All in all, an enjoyable romance story that could have been better, but still, it's rather good as it is.
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