Mustang Annie
by Rachelle Morgan, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80921-4

Western historical romance Mustang Annie pricks my interest when I realize that it has a former horse thief as a heroine. She is wanted by the authorities, who know her as "Mustang Annie". Unfortunately, soon after, I realize that MA is actually a Supernanny romance in disguise. Okay, I can adjust my expectations accordingly.

But it's not a good omen when the first few pages already has Annie making apologies about her past. Sure sign of wimpiness, I thought. Luckily, Annie isn't a wimp. But she's supernanny and Horse Whisperess extraordinaire. Is there anything she can't do? Well, being interesting, for one.

Brett Corrigan wants Annie to help him capture a horny wild stallion that keeps driving his prized mares away from his ranch. Now he too is a gambler who hasn't earned a honest living until he came to his Three Aces ranch ownership. Again, I have high hopes for Brett.

Indeed, both characters have great potential to be extraordinary, and MA can be a great story of healing. After all, Annie has suppressed so much of her emotions, while Brett wants to start life anew as a honest man. But their relationship is less than interesting. Annie degenerates into a one-woman No pain, no time, no sex woman whose attempts to drive Brett away consists of simplistic overreactions to Brett's attempts to discipline a stable hand named Dogie. Every little thing he does to (rightfully) put that boy in his place is exaggerated in Annie's mind until Brett resembles something like a hulking children serial killer in her eyes. Doesn't make her look intelligent.

Also, Annie is so determined to forget her past that she refuses to settle for Brett, an ex-gambler, even after Brett has shown him nothing but consideration and patience. After a while, I wish Brett would just kick her out of his life. What's with all this coddling of whiny, bratty women?

But the biggest flaw in this story is Anne and Brett's catfight over Dogie, an annoying, indisciplined, and serial-killer-in-the-making boy who deserves at least a blistering setting down. But Annie, the maternal Chalice of Feminine Warmth that she is, insists on coddling that boy. He's the son she never had (let's all sing that mommy-dying song from Les Miserables)! He's only a boy, even after he nearly got everyone killed with his latest prank! If this is good motherhood, I say Annie has lost it completely. Here's to seeing her and Dogie on a Springer episode of My son kills doggies but I love him!.

MA sets up an interesting premise only to lose it when it starts trying to take the easy way out by making everything set in black or white. Scolding children = baaaaad!. Stealing to survive = baaaaddddd! Coddling kiddies = good! Making apologies for one's past even though one did one's best to survive = good! Such simplistic views really destroy all complexities of human behaviors and thoughts that could've made this romance a stand-out. Too much short-cuts and whining = baaaad!

Rating: 56

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