The Loner
by Joan Johnston, contemporary (2002)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 0-440-23472-7

Joan Johnston continues to explore small-town cowboy inbreeding with the latest installment of Blackthornes sleep with Creeds sleep back with Blackthornes but they don't know who the other has been sleeping with when in fact it seems like everybody has slept with everybody, only they don't know it, oh darn saga. First there is the The Cowboy, then the The Texan, and now The Loner.

And as the saga unfurls, the Blackthorne/Creed family tree becomes more and more convoluted, sprawling into a necropolis of dotted lines (you know, to indicate illicit affairs and the offsprings that result) as well as thick lines (to indicate legal - I hope - marriages). Whoever that is drawing the lines connecting the names may have to do some creative maneuvers along the many, many names on that tree.

It makes me scared to even set foot in Texas, I tell you. If you are a Texan in Joan Johnston's book, be careful or you may end up shagging your grandfather. Although if you live in Joan Johnston's Texas, who knows? You may just love shagging your grandfather.

This is the story of Billy Creed.

Oh yeah, before I go on, I probably should tell you that the Creeds and the Blackthornes hate each other. Why? It's complicated and so dysfunctional, let's just say that the more they hate each other, the more there are dotted lines joining the names from the Creed family tree to the Blackthorne family tree. It's horrifying, the way these creatures keep spawning, I tell you.

So, back to Billy. Billy loves Summer Blackthorne, until he realizes that oh no, he is actually the son of Jackson - Summer's da! Aah! That makes Summer his half-sister! How did Billy end up Jackson's son? Well, Jackson had an affair with - lemme check the book, gimme a sec - Dora, and Jackson's wife has Dora marrying Blackjack, who then whacks them both silly up and down. But Summer, ah, is not really Jackson's daughter! See, Summer is the result of an illicit affair between Eve, Jackson's wife - and a ranch foreman. Meanwhile, Billy has an affair with a waitress, this affair resulting in a boy named Will. Now that Slut Waitress - because we all know sluts sleep around, but Billy ain't no slut, no, because he is a man, see, and male sluts are okay, because they are romance heroes. Just like how Eve, that slut is a slut because she slept with her foreman, unlike Jackson, who loves Lauren Creed and so it's okay that he sluts around with other women, because -

Joan Johnston, you are one twisted author, if you don't mind me telling you. What do you have against your fellow womankind?

Summer, naturally, is a romance heroine and so doesn't have affairs.

But she will marry Billy so that Billy can keep custody of his son. After all, Slut Waitress is a slut and so must die. Slut! Summer marries Billy and moves in with Dora and Billy's sister, and they make her life a living hell, but that's okay, because Summer, like, loves Billy forever and ever and it's okay. Because she's not a slut and hence pure and noble. Did I mention that Billy's mother is dying? So Summer will take care of Dora even when Dora hates, hates, ahtes her.

Anyway, I'll just say this: I hope you real life Texans are much more sane and normal than the weirdos in this story. If not, well, study your family tree closely, and if you must sleep with anyone, please, please, make him wear a rubber and take that Pill. Don't drag innocent kids into your messy trailer park of a love life.

Rating: 39

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