The Cowboy
by Joan Johnston, contemporary (2000)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 0-440-22380-6

It's 2000, and everyone sues each other as a hobby. McDonalds serves you a too cold Big Mac? Sue. Poke your eye with a Staedeler pencil? Sue Staedeler and be rich.

So why on earth are our beloved families Creed vs Blackthorne going at it in methods that would make the Sicilian Big Family proud? Hillbillies, I tell you. There's nothing in this 360+ pages of misery and gloom that can't be fixed by a nice, long, nasty courthouse circuit.

Instead, we have our two star-crossed lovers, Trace Blackthorne and Callie Creed. At 18, they decide they would be the one to mend the rift between their families (young people would use any excuse to boink). Tough talk, but the moment Trace's brother breaks the neck of Callie's brother in a football game (ouchie), Callie breaks the whole thing off.

Of course she's pregnant. No contemporary romance is complete without a Secret Baby these days.

Now, 11 years later, they're at it again. Trace comes back from globe-trotting to look at his father who is in bed, thanks to a heart attack. And Callie is doing her best at her role as the self-suffering I have no life except to take care of my family and have a miserable time doing it martyr. The Creed is about to lose their ranch thanks to foreclosure, everyone is trying to kill everyone, Trace and Callie must unravel the reason for the family feud, and... really, people, get a lawyer! Get two, get three! It's the 21st century - killing people is so passé.

Callie is miserable and frigid, Trace is miserable and alternates between being a I want you for sex only and Dudley Do-Right, and everyone else in both family is so mule-headed I wonder if these people know they're in the 21st Century.

Apart from the unlikeable main characters, the story moves along in a pretty predictable fashion. Who is the mastermind behind the accidents and murder attempts? Why do they even bother when they can find out the answers to those and the cause of the feud if they look up the historical and contemporary romances that are based on Romeo And Juliet and are published before this book.

What this book needs is a long, nasty, bitchy courtroom case. One with temper tantrums, sobbing wives in low-cleavage dresses, semen-stained dresses and mattresses, and a bloodied glove. Now that would at least inject some dose of levity this book sorely needs.

Rating: 43

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