Silhouette Intrigue, £3.10, ISBN 0-373-22838-4
Romantic Suspense, 2006
The three stories in Desert Sons are very closely linked – they happen right after each other with a murder mystery developing throughout all three stories – so this isn’t your typical garden variety anthology. Unfortunately, it is also a pretty forgettable anthology.
The stories take place in Sena Pueblo, a sleepy town in New Mexico, and revolves around three men. Each fellow has a story named after him.
In Rebecca York’s Luke, Luke Cordova is an ex-con who was framed and now he owns a plumbing company. He likes to sneer. That is the only distinct personality I get from his story. Oh, he’s supposed to be this loner type, but egad, he sneers. Why do I have this feeling that the sneer will remains in place as he shags the heroine? Luke, our quintessential sneering tall, dark, and handsome hero, and our heroine Ashley Donaldson pretty much stumble upon the mystery when they find Joe, their mutual friend, waving a gun and acting crazy. When Joe shows up dead, Luke is predictably the main suspect so Ashley decides to say that she was with him that night that Joe died in order to protect Joe.
Ashley, a woman trying to discover more about her birth mother in Sena Pueblo, is a heroine who just cannot stay put when the hero tells her to. When he tells her to stay put while he sneaks off to investigate a noise, she’ll happily sneak off after him. Frankly, I think she’s an accident waiting to happen. While Ms York thankfully doesn’t have Ashley becoming a liability to Luke – Ashley comes close at one point in the story, though – I find myself cringing every time Ashley behaves like this fearless wide-eyed Nancy Drew with no common sense. Between her fearless charging into danger and Luke’s permanent sneer, I feel as if I’m reading a dime novel of some sort.
Ann Voss Peterson continues the mystery in Tom, in which we have Luke’s buddy Tom Lahi, a lawyer, sparring wits and later tongues with Jessie Gardner, the FBI agent who is in town to investigate Joe’s death. This is the best of the three stories because Tom and Jessie are the characters that come closest to attaining two-dimensional depths. They don’t sneer or do anything stupid here. This is a short and enjoyable story. In this anthology, that means this story is pure gold compared to the other two.
Patricia Rosemoor’s Rico is the worst story of the three. Rico Tafoya, a rich art gallery owner and friend of the other two men, is just like Luke in that he too has a permanent sneer on his face. The vapid heroine Charlotte Reyna, on the other hand, is like those stupid heroines in horror movies. You probably have seen a few of those movies, I’m sure, where these heroines know that a great evil is coming but when they try to tell the cops about the great evil, they babble and shriek and come off like a nutcase so nobody believes them. Charlotte is that kind of heroine. She seems to be an entirely visceral creature, basing her decisions purely on how she feels about something.
Also, the story disappointingly ends with the revelation that the villain is… still a nonentity by the time this fellow is revealed. It is hard not to feel cheated when I learn that the villain turns out to be Just Some Crazy Bad Guy, especially after all that build up in the three stories.
Desert Sons has only one story that I’d consider worth a second reading. Talk about a dry spell.