Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29831-0
Historical Romance, 2015
Broody and moody heroes can be sexy, but let’s be honest here, they are so… everywhere these days that it is hard to swing a cat or a dog without hitting at least three and giving them more issues about women that have hurt them. So, give me a hero who laughs in the face of danger and is generally so full of lighter feelings, and I would feel like I’ve woken up one fine morning to find a chest full of hundred dollar bills at the foot of the bed just for me.
The father of the woman who now calls herself Maddie Stockwell was an outlaw, although until recently she was cared for by a prospector who taught her all she needed to know about mining for gold. She was the “daughter” of this prospector. Smithy, doing most of the mining when the man fell ill to pay for his medication. Today, both her father and Smithy are gone, leaving her with only an enraged criminal hot on her heels – courtesy of her father, naturally. She is laying low in California when Mad Dog Rodriquez’s men catch up with her. She manages to give one of them a mean trashing but then a few more show up.
Lo and behold, a man with a horse rides up to the rescue. How cheesy, I know, but Cole DuMont is fine like that. Call him Lucky, by the way. He does that all the time, hoping that he’d actually get lucky in life, and soon Maddie decides to do that too, so that he’d be lucky and his luck would rub off on her. Anyway, as it happens, Cole’s uncle and the neighborhood madame are in a secret partnership to smuggle out of town the young girls Mad Dog has coerced into his flesh trade business. While Maddie isn’t in the trade, she becomes friends with the madam, who decides to give her a helping hand by asking Cole to rendezvous with her and help her get out of town in his uncle’s ship. So, he shows up just in time. On a stolen horse, but hey, who cares.
When Maddie learns that Cole wants to head out to Alaska to look for gold, she realizes that this is her chance too to strike out on her own and make a new life for herself. While he is reluctant to let her tag along, she negotiates an arrangement with his uncle to head out there on her own. So, like it or not, these two are going to be stuck together for a long time. They both have a similar desire in life: Cole does not want to be controlled by a woman after so many years of dealing with an overbearing control freak mother and now ex-wife-to-be, while Maddie sees no good in being in any relationship that gives a man power over her. So, they won’t do that falling in love thing. Of course not, don’t be silly.
A Fortune for the Outlaw’s Daughter may be a mouthful of a title, but it’s somewhat accurate, as Maddie is after all looking for gold in Alaska. And it is a fun and fantastic kind of Western romance that I don’t come across often these days – it moves from place to place, from California to Alaska, instead of being limited to a ranch or a small town. The scenery is great and the atmosphere is gorgeous – I feel like I’m in the story myself at times, thanks to the descriptive narrative, and that’s great. As I’ve mentioned, Cole is a refreshing tall glass of water after so many brooding emo dudes, and he has enough flaws to balance off his virtues so that he doesn’t come off as some kind of perfect trophy boyfriend. Cole is, in fact, quite childish sometimes, but then again, which man isn’t?
Maddie starts out a fantastic heroine. She’s genuinely capable of taking care of herself, and I love that she doesn’t hesitate to seize opportunities with both hands when they arise. Maddie’s past isn’t a rosy one, but she never lets that define her or make her feel like a pathetic nobody not good enough for anyone. I like this. She has great chemistry with Cole, both of them bantering and being childish during more pleasant moments, and connecting sweetly when they discover that they have more in common than they first realized.
I really want to give this book five oogies, but here’s the thing – the story loses steam significantly in the late quarter or so, when the heroine’s stubbornness becomes a liability and she becomes another “I will stay here and do what I want even if I’m putting myself in great danger – stop protecting me, assholes!” crazy broad. And the sad thing is, she’s not staying put because she wants to hoard a fortune for herself – she wants the fortune for the hero. Because of the obligations she feels for him and his uncle. In a single stroke, the author transforms a pragmatic and tough heroine into a weird moron who puts her self-imposed self of obligation over any survival instinct or even common sense. It is as if Lauri Robinson had won the lottery six times over while writing this book, decided to go on a nice long holiday, and the publisher had to beg Mary Balogh in step in and finish the story.
It’s great that Cole and Maddie find love in end, and really, it can’t happen to two more adorable couple. But the last quarter or so of this story makes me grit my teeth because of just how much it doesn’t measure up to the parts leading up to it, and I can’t help feeling a keen sense of disappointment as a result. Still, this book gets a well-deserved platter of four oogies. I just wish so much that I can give it more.