by Diana Palmer, contemporary (2004)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 0-7783-2046-4

Diana Palmer actually comes closest to delivering a heroine who isn't a relic of some 1980s romance novel in Lawless, even if everything else about this story is typical of this author's style.

Five years ago, sixteen-year old Christabel Gaines was rescued from her abusive father by our hero, 34-year old Texas Ranger Judd Dunn. Because Chrissy was then without anyone to take care of her and obviously Social Services doesn't exist in the world where the story takes place in, Judd marries her, fully intending to annul the marriage when she is 21. Well, don't look at me like that, people. I didn't write this story now, did I? Besides, as a non-Texan, I don't know - maybe those people do things very differently down in Texas. All those jokes can't just spring out of nowhere, after all!

Okay, today, Chrissy is almost twenty-one and madly in love with Judd who is of course a typical block-headed alpha butthead hero who will drive any sane woman into an early grave or a stroke, whichever comes first. Chrissy is a whiz kid, a feitsy virgin, and a sassy chick-lit heroine wannabe, which makes her a first of some sorts from the author. All her sass and supposed brain however can't keep the ranch from failing so she now lets her ranch be used as a set for the filming of a movie. The actress Tippy Horn puts the move on Judd while Chrissy tries to hang out with Judd's buddy Cash Grier, thus causing Judd and Chrissy to burn with all kinds of jealousy at how well the other person is getting along with their supposed new best friends.

Judd pretty much is as thick as lead - his actions in this book aren't reflective of the actions of an actual person rather than a character who is deliberately and stupidly stubborn just to allow Ms Palmer a chance to make sure that the story is as long as it is. Chrissy may be sassy and supposedly feisty but she still bakes apple pies and Ms Palmer makes sure that Chrissy never actually develops a spine where Judd is concerned. Instead, Chrissy becomes soon enough a stock damsel in distress for the subplots revolving someone out to get her or Judd or maybe even the two of them.

Lawless is therefore a typical Diana Palmer story but with a heroine that is more tolerable than most of the author's whiny and spineless doormats. While her long-time fans may or may not be pleased by the author's attempt to embrace the sensibilities of the twenty-first century market, the fact that the plot of the story hinges too much on the hero being a stubborn mule means that Lawless still remains a spectacle. It entertains because it's campy enough to make me laugh during some unintentionally funny scenes of male stupidity rather than because it's a heartwrenching romantic story or anything close to that.

Rating: 68

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