Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80331-3
Historical Romance, 2001
Lorraine Heath can write. Maybe it’s not fair to judge an author’s current work against her past works. But it is frustrating for me when Never Marry a Cowboy relies on cheap showy melodrama to wring tears out of me instead of just telling a story naturally and let things flow the way they will.
This story has a heroine called Ashton who is dying of a terminal disease. (Play that Titanic mourning song, somebody.) Of course, in romance novels, terminal diseases = lack of Vitamin K from inadequate exposure to sunshine or something of that nature. Her brother asks Kit Montgomery, an old friend and now (you probably wouldn’t guess this!) a sheriff, to marry her so that she will die happy, a woman and a wife.
“Kiss my ass!” Kit said something to that effect.
Until, of course, he catches his glimpse of Ashton. Beautiful, waifish, dying, with that hair flowing around her pale face like some shampoo commercial thingie (hey, blow some wind over here!), the loose sick gown clinging to those… hips… kittens… (more wind, people!)
“Sure. Those poor kittens… I mean, poor Ashton deserves some happiness before she dies,” Kit declares. Pervert.
Ashton and Kit spend lovely wonderful times together, moments of trust and bonding just like those family insurance commercial ads they show on TV. Running around the streets, Ashton laughing and how life slowly regains into her frail, fragile systems (told you all she needed is sunlight), and in those quiet moments in their room, alone, just the two of them, their eyes meet. And they lick their dry lips. Is that a fly on Ashton’s nose? Kit moves his face closer. Is that a mosquito on Kit’s nose? Ashton lifts her head and puckers her lips…
“No! You are too weak! I will kill you if I ravage you like the virile Cowboy Fabio I am, my dearest, weak, fragile lily of the valley!” Kit anguishes.
“You just think I am not beautiful! You think my kittens are too small, my hips not fat enough, my waist not slender enough! You do not love me! You just want that dead sister-in-law of yours! I hate you! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Get out! Get out of my boudoir before I cough blood and die in front of you!”
Kit tries to say. “I should tell you… I should tell you…” (How he helped committed euthanasia for that dead sis-in-law that he loves, and how he doesn’t want to lose the woman he loves all over again.)
Ashton says, “I should tell you… I should tell you…”
Then they hold hands and start singing, “Without you, the ground thaws, the rain falls, the grass grows… but I’ll die without you!” And the male chorus sings, “No day but today! No day but today!”
Oops, wrong song.
Of course, after the beautiful moments of pure love and enduring bliss (“Near, far, where you are! I believe that my heart will go on and on!”), Ashton discovers what Kit did to his late sis-in-law. “Monster! Murderer! No! No! No! Your love is impure! Your love is untrue! What can I do? Oh!” She drives him away, then laments, “I love him, we’re one… there’s nothing to be done! Not a thing I can do… But hold him, hold him forever! Be with him now, tomorrow, and all of my life!”
Then Kit appears in a burst of light at her doorway, and they croon, “There’s a place for us… Somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air… Wait for us… Somewhere!” to which Ashton, with her newfound vigor (nothing a healthy dose of Orgasm Power can’t cure), does her uplifting soprano, “Hold my hand, and I’ll take you there! Somehow! Someday! Somewhere! Sooooommmm-WAAAAAAARRRRE!”
And for the grand epilogue, every cast member of Never Marry a Cowboy gather around and start dancing and screeching, “I like to be in America, everything’s free in America… lalalalala America!”
As you can probably tell, I remain unmoved and bored throughout the whole Kleenex-and-lighters-in-the-air weepie-lite tediousness. Lightweight characters, predictable plot twists… The only saving grace is the author’s writing style, which only made my frustration with this by-the-book bore of a story even more acute.