Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4943-0
Historical Romance, 2001
Ronda Thompson’s brand of comedy is from the “the more the heroine makes a fool of herself, F-O-O-L, the funnier it will be” school. If that’s your brand of funnies, go knock yourself out. If not, prepare to be knocked out into a stupefied daze by the incessant, unfunny, painful antics of Miss Young, Dumb Thing and her Grouchy, Sexual-Harassment Loving Dumb Jock Fiend Boyfriend.
Lilla Traften, last seen as that shrill and irritating other woman in this author’s amazingly bad Prickly Pear, is back and now the star of her own story. Her father has banished her, for the sake of mankind, surely, to this backward area called Penhandle. Where she’s to be the schoolteacher. I confess I actually feel terrified for the kids of Penhandle at this point.
On her way there, the coach breaks down. Lilla, thirsty, mistakes whiskey as water (the stagecoach driver tells her that water in Texas tastes funnier, and she believes him) and drinks, drinks, drinks. I uncorked a bottle of whiskey at this point and take a sniff. Yup, smells like safe, drinkable water alright. And she’s to teach kids stuff? Lord have mercy. So she gets drunk. This after she unbuttons her dresses a little – things get hot out there in the desert, et cetera. The hero Grady Finch snuggles up to her, everybody thinks Lilla’s the new town whore – women with unbuttoned dresses are all whores, after all – and I tell you, at this point I am laughing so hard I fell down and hit my head hard against the table and falls into blissful unconsciousness. No wait, that part is my wistful imagination. Damn.
And so they go. The story is basically a series of episodes that are nothing more than repetitions of first Grady saying some obnoxious thing that vexes Ms Thing, Ms Thing throwing a temper tantrum and demanding unreasonable things (a buggy, please, no horse!), Ms Thing running off into danger when she doesn’t get what she wants, Grady saves her and paws her where she happily plays along until sobriety kicks in, upon which she shrieks at Grady, how dare he save her, she can take care of herself, et cetera.
Isn’t this hilarious? If you always believe that the dirty, illiterate, dumb, and ugly people living in the old days of the Wild Wild West are prime candidates as examples of why we should bring back eugenics, Desert Bloom will be your Bible. Now, excuse me, I feel constipated and I think I’ll go lie down for a while.