Montana Born And Bred
by Alexis Harrington, historical (2000)
St Martin's Press, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-97587-2

For a long time I thought Montana Born And Bred will be a keeper for me. After all, I have been sniffling into my hankies at the poignant scenes and sighing at the not-so-poignant-but-still-romantic moments between bounty hunter Zach Garrett and single-mommy-in-distress Sarah Kincade all the while. Then the last quarter of the story arrives and the two hitherto intelligent people start acting stupid and hapless.

Sarah was seduced by a rich man and found herself pregnant with his child. Instead of a happily-ever-after, she discovers that he is all along married and has conducted the affair all along to make a baby for his wife! (Wifey goes along with this plan, by the way, with her full consent.) They coerce Sarah to hand over the baby after she has given birth to the baby, but Sarah takes lil' Danny and runs away instead.

Zach is hired to bring Danny back. He agrees, for he is a conscienceless man who wants nothing more than enough cold hard cash to buy a ranch and live happily-ever-after. Sarah is nothing but another step closer to attaining his dream. Too bad Zach doesn't know that in romance novels, baby + single momma in duress = one male sucker about to fall hard.

I sigh when Zach readily abandons his dreams to protect Sarah. The author makes Sarah's plight so heartbreaking and her loneliness so tangible I am moved. When these two lonely souls consummate their relationship, I go "Boo-hoo! That's so beautiful, lonely people finding comfort in each other!"

Then we need a Grand Climax of A Confrontation, and here is where things go downhill. Sarah and Zach are hapless, and their presence is pushed aside for some skanky antics of our villains. In short, those two find themselves now playing secondary roles to some rather blatant attempts to shock me, the reader, with the baddies' villainy.

Did I mention the lesbian baby killer? I am not one of those Pollyannas who believe that gay people can't do wrong (I don't believe sociopathic behavior is exclusive only to heterosexuals), but this villain's sexuality is brought up in a way that is obviously meant to elicit shock and disgust in me, right after I'm told she's destined for the madhouse. It's less than a week to 2001, really, and I think it's definitely time we all accept alternative sexual lifestyles as here to stay (if you don't like the idea, at least tolerate it, okay?) instead of gasping like suffocating goldfish at the mention of lesbianism or anything of that sort.

It's a pity, I have fun reading this story, but I close this book with a rather bad taste in my mouth. How could a story be so moving yet so flawed? Go figure, really.

Rating: 81

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