Comanche Woman
by Joan Johnston, historical (2002, 1988 reissue)
Dell, $7.50, ISBN 0-440-23680-0

Follows Frontier Woman.

Joan Johnston's Comanche Woman is a silly piece of cheese. It's enjoyable in the sense that it is great for snark fodder. The author's plot twists are ancient overused soap opera plot devices, secrets just won't be told until cliffhanger moments, and it is so misguidedly serious. This book is great unintentional comedy.

If you really want to be serious and try to untangle the family tree of the people in this book, I suggest you get a cardboard and marker pen first because you will need them. Like her contemporary "Romeo shags Juliet shags Mercutio shags Thybault shags Caliban shags Rosalind shags McDuff saga", the tortuous path of tangled bastardy and illicit affairs of her trilogies can be baffling.

Part time readers will only need to know this much of a backstory before reading Comanche Woman: Bayleigh Stewart has been kidnapped by Comaches a long time back and today, her family is still looking for her. Long Quiet/Walker Coburn is a half-Comanche half-White hero who hates his father's people and sides with his Comanche people in their fight to keep their Texan lands. But one day he sees Bayleigh, the sister of his childhood buddy and woo! It's love, the kind of implausible, vaguely-motivated love that doesn't really make sense, but does it matter? Just like how Aidan loves Kendall after just one shag in All My Children on TV, motivation-free love, Long Quiet loves Bayleigh and promptly gives up his womanizing ways just after one look. Hmmph, you'd think Bayleigh would at least give him a shag like Kendall gave Aidan for all his troubles.

So today, Aidan, I mean, Long Quiet is looking for Bayleigh. He finds her after he saves this chief, Many Horses, and Many Horses turns out to be keeping Bay. Bay has been taking care of Many Horses' kid while conveniently remaining pure and lovely all this while (now I know I'm reading a romance novel), but she trembles in fear and anticipation when Long Quiet wants to help her. Many Horses will conveniently give her to Long Quiet. And then Long Quiet will take Bay back to her family.

Along the way she acts helpless and shrieky, constantly needing his help, and he marvels - without any hint of irony - at her courage and strength. Of course she will love him, although I have no idea why, and of course he will have a sudden epiphany of "I'm too good for her!" and makes love to her and then dumps her with her family before Leaving For Good.

And of course, she goes kazoinks in the tummy with the Magic Baby that Will Make Everything Right.

Naturally, there's the Other Man, who is painted as bad because he doesn't like the idea of this woman marrying him for the sake of giving her brat a father and he refuses to stand for it. How dare that man refuse to cater to our heroine's heroic sacrifice of marrying a man she doesn't love for the sake of her baby? (His needs? He's the Other Man, who cares what his needs are!)

Long Quiet comes back. They make love. He then finds out about the Other Man and sees red. He is forced to marry Bay and is angry because she must be some evil ho to want to make him marry her! I really have to laugh at this point, because the whole thing has jumped the shark and entered the point of ridiculousness.

Look, he goes again! She must tell him something, but wait, after they make be-yoo-ti-fool passionate love first, but... oh no! He leaves before she can tell him! Ugh, ugh, ugh.

And so the story goes, playing to a completely predictable tune of Bad Other Men, plenty of heroic self-sacrificing tendencies, and a love of the doormats, IKEA grand sale style. No matter how much lip service is paid to Bay's "courage" and "spirit", she has "wipe your shoes on my face" on her forehead, while Long Quiet is the guy forever singing that same old "I'm too good for you, I've leaving you for your own good (but that is after I've made you a single mother first, naturally)!" song.

Everything comes together in a very hilariously soap operatic tale of overblown love and unreasonable pride passed off as heroic sacrifices. I should be irritated, but the whole story is well-written and flows so well like the grandest of (bad) soap operas that I can't help but to have a fine time. Maybe the producers of All My Children should give this author's agent a call. That soap is kind of dull at the moment - gimme more Trey Sheppard and his sexy Evil Sexy Dude with Glasses mojo! - and I have a hunch this author's melodramatic and campy style can give that show a much needed boost. And more Trey Sheppard, mustn't forget that.

Rating: 76

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