by Emma Wildes, historical (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-955-7

Poor Laurel Daniels. Our heroine was on her way back from Boston after visiting her grandmother when her coach was attacked by outlaws known as the River Bend Outfit and she was taken prisoner by them. When our story opens, she's been "bought" for exclusive use by one of the outlaws, Cal Riker, who offers the others his share of the loot in exchange for having her all to himself. Laurel is therefore spared of a brutal ordeal at the hands of her captors but she's not exactly jumping in joy since Cal is an infamous outlaw with a high body count attributed to him. However, he turns out to be a good guy who is trying to protect her from the others. Laurel is now confused. Who is Cal? What does he want?

Cal is a familiar fellow, a woobie who is a good guy when it comes to Laurel, and there is a paint-by-numbers feel to him. He's not a very memorable character, I'm afraid, but at least he's a pretty nice guy, his association with outlaws notwithstanding. Laurel is a less straightfoward character because sometimes she is smart and tough while at other times she can be very silly. Her attraction to Cal under the circumstances happens too fast to be real for me. I also groan and shake my head when at one point she tells Cal that she wants a shag from him and she doesn't care that she gets pregnant as a result. You can imagine what happens eventually, I'm sure.

Lawless is a pleasant Western historical romance. I can't say that this is a memorable read because the characters are familiar types and the story doesn't have many surprises. But for the most part, the main characters are likable and on the whole adequate to carry the story and, despite some dodgy moments here and there, the story itself is pleasant to read. Reading Lawless is like eating a meal that I have eaten many times before. It's adequate and pleasant, but it won't stop me from craving for something more interesting or unusual the next time around.

Rating: 75

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