by Debra Mullins, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80775-0
The Lawman's Surrender is a nice, if patchy at places, read. It's very readable and I finished this book in one setting with a good feeling in my heart. There's no bitter screaming, no I-hate-you-and-my-parents-and-my-ex dysfunction-o-rama, and no complicated emotional maneuvres on the leads' part. Too bad hero Marshall Jedidiah Brown never rises above being anything more than a less alpha Malboro Man stereotype.
Susannah Calhoun first saw Jed when she was dancing at her newly married sister's party (see Donovan's Bed) and was attracted to this man who wears danger like a cologne (or something). But Jed's idea of polite talk was to come on to her in a way that is more crude and unsophisticated, a misfire on the author's attempt to portray "sexy", I'm sure. And he had the nerve to think her spoiled when she gave a huff and turned away. But not, of course, before them sharing a hot kiss.
One year later, Suz is in trouble. She may have hurt an overardent and unwanted horny admirer (who also happens to be her employer) a bit more than she intended. Trouble really starts when the man turns up dead as a doorknob and a housekeeper who witnessed the whole thing implicates Suz for the murder. Suz makes the whole thing worse by trying to flee town. She gets thrown into the slammer as a result.
Jed is called to escort Suz to Denver where she will be tried. Suz, however, insists that she is not guilty, and if she finds that lying housekeeper who has flown the coop, she will prove it. Jed doesn't believe her at first, but soon they embark on this wild goose chase to clear Suz's name.
Thing is, Jed is never real to me. His lines are stilted and are reminiscent of those hackneyed macho-dude talk more appropriate for spaghetti Western stories than a western romance like this one, not if the author wants to create a realistic hero anyway. If he is supposed to be funny, I must be missing the big picture, because when he struts around like those exaggerated "Aw shucks, ma'am, don't I look hot in my spurs?" cowboy caricatures, I wince.
Suz can do some stupid things, but at least she is more convincing as a slightly ditzy but spunky heroine who is determined to clear her name. But the author's humor is a bit way off this time around too, by putting Suz in some silly situations. Jed, you see, tells everyone in some convoluted plan of his that Suz has murdered three husbands. Hence we have a bitter wife kidnapping Suz to help her murder her husband. There are also many clumsy, buffoonish Western bandits and baddies right out of a bad dime novel (complete with accents and the ugly looks to match) that cross our intrepid duo's part. All done in a mix of tomfoolery and humor that don't gel well at all.
Therefore, with a hero that seems just east of caricaturehood and enough Yomesty Sams in this story to keep it going, The Lawman's Surrender is a fun-and-fluff romp that doesn't try too hard to be anything more. I've no problem with that. Still, the humor does tend to be off most of the time to prevent me from enjoying it as much as I could have.
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