Outlaw Bride
by Maureen McKade, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81566-4

They do say the Western subgenre of romance is dying because the books aren't selling the amount they used to. And they say also maybe it's because of the same old plot done to death - vengeful hero at the fringes of the law (former law enforcer, Ma'am) and the widowed boardinghouse owner/schoolteacher, anyone?

Maureen McKade's Outlaw Bride can't come at a worse time, then. A blind person who has read enough Western romances can map out the whole plot of this story after reading the first two chapters.

Clint Beaudry is a hired gun, and he was once a law enforcer now bent on avenging his wife (you see, he wasn't there when she...). Mattie St Clair is the owner of a boarding house that isn't doing too well, and she has a son who longs for a daddy figure. Mattie has lost a spendthrift, useless hubby, and when Clint comes asking for a room, she turns him away. No guns and killers allowed, no siree.

Then he gets injured and ends up at Mattie's doorstep...

Oh, we all know the drill by now, right? She nurses him back to health (thankfully Ms McKade refrains from putting in the 'bathing-him-naked' scene, although the "Who pulled off my pants?" thing pops up here as well), he gets torn between her and her son or vengeance, et cetera.

But if there's a reason where I keep reading and even loving this book, it is always this author's ability to bring her characters to life. Mattie and Clint may be stereotypes in a stereotypical plot, but their healing and attraction are very beautifully done. I don't want to strangle Andy, Mattie's son, in fact, I think it's wonderful how Clint tries to be a good father figure to the boy.

Hence, Outlaw Bride is a lovely tale of family and love. It's just too bad the whole thing is tired - no, more than tired, in fact, it's probably in advanced stages of rigor mortis by now, this plot. Poor Mattie and Clint, those poor darlings could use a fresher storyline, really.

Rating: 85

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