Bantam, $5.50, ISBN 0-553-58045-0
Historical Romance, 2000
Maddie’s Justice could have been a superior Western bang-bang romantic adventure if it doesn’t make painfully obvious concessions to the genre rules. Well it does, therefore it is yet another dime novel bang-bang romantic adventure with the usual Indian-wannabe-gun-totting-tomboy-wronged-woman heroine and tortured-torn-noble-lawman hero.
Maddie Rutledge, in her attempt out-torment her fellow heroines, has a past right out of Wile E Coyote Hell. Raised in an orphanage, she stages a one-girl rebellion against the mulish, unimaginative folks running the orphanage with her calls for reforms. Sent to an Indian reservation camp to teach, she ends up shooting the sex-mad, sadistic bastard torturing her students. Then the dead loser’s uncle – a judge, of all lucky coincidences! – sentence her to a twenty-year term in the slammer. There, Maddie survives rape attempts and beatings, and befriends the token tart with the heart of gold. Don’t worry, Maddie must have worn an uranium chastity belt during her term – she is ripe for our future hero’s harvesting of the crop, so to speak.
Hero Rivlin Kilpatrick one day is ordered to escort Maddie across the country so that she can testify at that previously mentioned crooked judge’s court case. But that judge isn’t stupid, hence someone is trying to kill our two lovebirds all the way to the happy ending.
Did I mention the villain is some sick, bisexual pervert? And don’t forget the heroine’s virginity, important and certainly can’t be overlooked. And of course, the boinkings after near-death experiences. Don’t forget the stock characters: noble, tormented lawman and tomboy, supposedly-hard-hearted heroine who doesn’t hesitate to do reckless things, all for martyrdom. Let me say that I doubt genuinely hard-hearted heroines would not consider the consequences of sleeping with a lawman who would in the end close the cell gates behind her – then again, eh, maybe baby can keep her company and “be a part of him that lives with her forever” (or something), so who knows?
The only time Maddie’s Justice works is when the author lets the two characters have some quiet time together, where they bicker, confess, and learn to trust each other. Such moments are few, however. Instead, I get lots of action, lots of predictable “I know you’re hurt, so am I, enough soul-baring, let’s shag baby! NOW!” cheap psychoanalyzing, and lots of improbable coincidences.
This book will get a “Well done!” stamp for acing Romance Formula 101, but me, here are two oogies from me.