The Outlaw And The Lady
by Lorraine Heath, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81741-1

See the title? The Outlaw And The Lady - and if you guess that this is a story about a vengeance-bent misunderstood cowboy at the wrong side of the law kidnapping a proper lady thing, well, you're on your way. Really! And this is exactly what this story is, right down to the annoying black-stallion-stands-up-and-flashes-his-privates pose in the cover and all. It is a good thing Ms Heath can wring emotions out of a rock, and that there are enough emotional punches in this story to make it an above average but oh-so-familiar event. I mean, it is familiar and stale as old bread, but there are still some warm fuzzy moments to be savored.

Angela Bainbridge is blind. But somehow, she is pretty smart, because she manages to be a good seamstress despite her handicap. When she bumps into bad, bad cowboy Lee Raven's recent robbing stint, he and his gang of noble Minority Cadets with Hearts of Gold and Matchmaking Souls kidnap her. Raven is bent on vengeance by systematically bleeding the finances of the man who has his entire family killed. Too late, he realizes that Angela cannot see, and hence wouldn't be able to identify anybody. What to do now, eh?

There is an interesting plot twist in this story, more interesting that it actually is, because for a moment I misread Damon as Ramon (if you've read the story, you'll know what I am talking about) and I go, "Wow! That's a brilliant plot twist! Breathtaking! Daring, and so amazing! Bravo! 93, no 95!" Then I realize that drats, Damon is Damon and Ramon is Ramon, and I sit back on my seat like a deflated balloon. Still, with Damon being Damon and Ramon being Ramon, it's still a nice story. I like Angel's transformation from typical huffy Ms Prim into a two-dimensional woman, and Raven is actually a pretty nice, tortured hero. (Problem? He's only 20 to Angela's 23, although he acts pretty mature for his age. Perv factor? He's a virgin. Yo, the Cherry-Hornet Queens, if you're reading this - go get him, girls!). Their relationship starts out familiar and all ho-hum in and out, but by the end when revelations, angst, and emotions pile high, the author succeeds in putting in some nice, pretty heartwarming scenes. I did go "Aww!" a few times, and that's good.

It's a pity Ms Heath keeps writing all these overdone premise and all for her Avon Westerns. I mean, come on, this lady can wring tears and blood out of a rock with her emotional scenes, and let's face it: this subgenre is said not to be faring well because people aren't buying anymore. Shouldn't it make more sense to write exciting, romantic, fresh stories instead of recycling more and more? What are we romance readers, the mission of mercy or something? I need a reason to keep Western romances, and I think recycling old plots isn't the answer at all.

Rating: 85

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