by Jodi Thomas, historical (2004)
Jove, $7.99, ISBN 0-515-13848-7
A messy build-up, a very tired handling of the romance, bizarre pacing, and too many "Oh my God, they're so stupid!" moments contribute to Jodi Thomas' latest book becoming a dud in every way that counts. Normally Ms Thomas can be relied on to deliver reasonably readable books so I don't know what happened. I just know that this book has very little reasonable logic and the hero and the heroine are often so inconsistent that it is as if this book changes according to the author's mood and whims.
A Texan's Luck is the third book in a trilogy starring three imbecile women who travel across the Wild Wild West, kill a man that tried to rape one of them, and even if no one witness their "murder", they decide to head to the next town and confess to the law anyway. The sheriff can't arrest them because he can't find a body but he can't let them go because they have confessed (I'm quoting Ms Thomas so direct any queries you may have about this premise to her) so he decides to raffle them off to the men in the town. Not as prostitutes, of course, but as wives. The sad thing is, I have a feeling that I'm expected to view the women's actions as noble and the sheriff's actions as kind and magnanimous.
I've made my views regarding the ridiculousness of this premise very clear in the reviews of the previous books in this trilogy. The first book, The Texan's Wager, has a great hero and a heroine who is on the most part intelligent so the romance is compelling enough to make up for the rubbishy set-up. The second book, When A Texan Gambles is painful to read. This book is worse. I feel like I've jumped from the pool into an unflushed broken toilet and straight into the cesspit.
Picture this: eighteen-year old Lacy Larson (the one that nearly got raped) storms into her married-by-proxy husband Captain Walker Larson's office when the man is trying to arrange an urgent evacuation of the town. Totally ignoring the fact that her husband is on a vital mission, she insists that he makes her his wife then and now. Yes, she wants to get laid. When Walker tells her that he doesn't want a wife for reasons that are never explained clearly, especially one that is wedded to him without his knowledge (thanks to his father), Lacy immediately assumes that he doesn't want her and hence Oh, It Is True, She Is Unlovable, Sob Sob Sob. She manages to goad Walker into sleeping with her and then balks because he is up only for a quickie and she hates that. I don't know, it's tough to wine and make love in a romantic manner when the man doesn't want her and he's, you know, in a hurry to save some lives and all that. Also, later the author reveals that Lacy is still traumatized at nearly being raped so this makes her wanting to, er, be a wife to Walker even more bizarre. Has Ms Thomas run out of ideas for her set-ups that she has to resort to using some phrase randomizer thingie to come up with the most implausible scenarios ever?
When this less-than-romantic coupling becomes one of the major issues driving Lacy's fear of intimacy, I really want to throw this book out the window. Am I supposed to sympathize with her? I mean, come on, Lacy's a complete dimwit in this instance and the only reaction I have in this instance to her plight is that she asked for it and she could may as well hug an incoming train if she wants out from her misery. Just what is it with these heroines expecting me to care about the nonsense they get into when they are obviously too stupid to think before they act in the first place?
Cut to five years later where Lacy is living in poverty in a town where everyone else exists just to tell me ad nauseum what a wonderful creature Lacy is. If they love her so much, why don't they help her even a little? You tell me. Walker shows up one day, telling her that her life is in danger and he is ordered to protect her. Under these circumstances, what would two intelligent people do? She can start by being reasonable. He can start by being the same. Instead, I get these two bickering like children over her cats and his presence in the house.
Even when Lacy realizes that someone is indeed out to kill her, she's more intent on flirting with Walker. Yes, after she gets shot at, her feelings miraculously transforms from petulance to shy "Oh, do I dare to let him roger me, hee-hee?" couquetteness. He transforms from a petulant sourpuss into a horny guy wanting to get into wifey's pants. Normally I would be appalled at such lousy discontinuous characterization but in this case I'm just happy that they stop squabbling and really, I'll take what I can get in this instance.
I guess the abrupt shift from painfully juvenile bickerings to perpetual lovey-doveyness is to accommodate the story's shift of emphasis from the romance to the external conflict. Indeed, as the story progresses, romance takes a backseat to Walker trying to protect Lacy or rescuing her when he fails to do so (again). Even then, this isn't rivetting reading because the characters often behave in unbelievably clueless ways. Walker, for example, starts the stupid show by allowing Lacy to go off with two strangers into the middle of nowhere in a "send Lacy into hiding" mission, with predictable results. For so long I really wonder whether he is good for anything because he's so inept. Lacy is a typical annoying "feitsy" heroine who often insists that she can take care of herself right before running straight into trouble. If these two are really serious about getting married, I wish them luck in trying to determine which end of their bodies that they should stick into the chamberpot.
The pacing is off too. For a story where Walker is supposedly concerned in keeping Lacy safe, he and Lacy spend too much time acting on a leisurely pace. Don't get me started about them mingling with friends and even children when they know that somewere out there, the villains are keeping watch on them. I guess logic is secondary to the author's need for sequel-baiting, I guess. And then there are the cases of the irritating secondary characters, where too many of them come in just to tell Walker what a wonderful, pure, noble, smart woman Lacy is. If she is so smart, she wouldn't be in jail and then be raffled to some stranger for a husband in the first place, would she?
This book is choppy, the characters behave in often stupid as well as illogical manner, the external suspense is flaccid, and the internal conflicts ("I don't want to get married but I want to kiss him, but oh, I'm so afraid, what shall I do *coy flutter of eyelids from Miss Pure and Penitent here - right before I kick her ass all the way to China*") are too contrived for me to have much patience with. I want believable conflicts, credible romance, or at least a suspense plot that is halfway decent if these authors want to write such action-driven books now - MY GOD, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK? - but this book just doesn't have them, just a $7.99 price tag.
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