Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-387-4
Paranormal Romance, 2016
Bonnie Borle has been waffling all this while, switching gears midline when it comes to her dissertation, but she thinks she has finally found the topic she can sink her teeth into. It’s all thanks to a curio shop – it has recently received “a superannuated diary” that could belong to someone from the Maxwell household in Fort Sumner, New Mexico during the late 19th century. The Maxwell family is an important one, and a dissertation based on a facet of that family’s history would be golden. Right?
Well, the shop owner and his assistant instead show Bonnie a mirror which they claim would take her back to 1881. They need her – someone who can’t even decide on the topic of her dissertation, much less finish one – to go back to that time and fix something that went wrong. Of course, they can’t tell her exactly what she has to do, because otherwise, where’s the fun in it? Next, you’d expect people to send soldiers out to war and tell them where to attack – what a silly idea. Still, they aren’t completely useless – they will help concoct an identity for her – Bonnie would be a writer of travel articles who just happen to drop by Lincoln County, New Mexico, to write about Billy the Kid. If she helps them and succeed, they’d give her the diary for free.
Bonnie naturally says yes. On top of getting her diary, she’d make lots of money writing about Billy the Kid and the man who would eventually shoot him, Sheriff Pat Garrett! She’d be rich and famous! Of course, how she’s going to prove that her account is the real deal is something that never occurs to her. Oh, and she’s secretly bringing alone her phone and her Kindle, because they would definitely come in handy in 1881.
Fortunately, as the story progresses, Bonnie turns out to be pretty resourceful in her own dingbat-like ways. What I would love to do, though, is to shoot the shop owner and his assistant with extreme prejudice, because those two are awful creatures. By refusing to tell Bonnie what she has to do, only to lecture and scold her for changing history once she’s decided to do what she thinks she must have been sent back to 1811 to do – that’s just plain obnoxious. They are basically setting her up to fail, like the worst plot device ever. In fact, I have a hard time getting into Dancing with Billy the Kid precisely because it never recovers from this awful way of getting Bonnie back to 1881. The dumbness of those two idiots taint the story all the way to the last page.
Also, the author’s handling of the romance is light, very light. Bonnie and Billy fall in love abruptly in a “the author tells me so, so it must be so” manner. Billy doesn’t have much of a personality here, and Bonnie is just slightly better; the author seems more interested in delivering action-driven moments than romantic ones. That is not a bad thing under normal circumstances, of course, but the superficial main characters make it hard for me get emotionally invested in this story.
Perhaps if this one had been published in the 1990’s, a time when ridiculous plot devices to send people back or forth in time were everywhere, I could still accept the basic premise and roll with it. Times have changed, time travel and paranormal stories have become more sophisticated, so Dancing with Billy the Kid feels more like a relic from the old LoveSpell days than anything else.