Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29791-7
Historical Romance, 2014
I have no idea why Rebel Outlaw is titled as such. Our hero Colt Wesson Travers (don’t laugh) comes from a family of bandits and outlaws, but he is determined to turn his back to them and live a more respectable life. So, while he may be a rebel, he’s not an outlaw. I notice that the synopsis on the back cover never mentions whether Colt is an outlaw or not, so I’m telling you folks now: the hero of this book is not an outlaw Romeo in cowboy hat and black jeans, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
As I’ve said, Colt wants to live a respectable life. He has been estranged from his family all this while. When his father passed on, he came home only to bring his grandmother and her sister with him to his new home. He has bought a ranch for cheap in Friendship Springs, Texas, and he intends to live a quiet and lawful life there with the old ladies. The piece of property is cheap for a reason: the previous owner, Old Man Munroe who is dead when the story begins, expected Colt to take care of his daughter, Holly Jane.
You see, the land is sandwiched by properties owned by the Folsom family at one side and those owned by the Broadhower family at the other side. Both families fancy themselves the Montagues and the Capulets. The river runs through Munroe land, and with Old Man Munroe dead, both the Folsoms and Broadbowers want one of their own to marry Holly Jane and, therefore, control precious access to the river. Holly Jane, by being a single woman with no one to look out for her, would be a hapless pawn, and her father made sure that this would not happen by selling the land to Colt.
Holly Jane is all sweetness and sunshine, opening a bakery store where she gives away more cakes and cookies for free than she should. She even has a pet pig that wears ribbons and such. How she didn’t kill her neighbors with cuteness, I’d never know. She is initially wary of the new folks coming in to take over her home, but she is soon cooking and baking and making whoopee with Colt like the happiest woman in the world. There is the issue with her neighbors, however, and his less law-abiding family members. Can they ever find peace when there are so many annoying people that want to meddle in their affair?
Far from being a dark angst-ridden story like the premise suggests that it would be, Rebel Outlaw is more like something by Pamela Morsi back in the old days when the author was still writing Western historical romances. It’s bubbly, sunny, and full of homespun warm happy moments. Only, it’s a little too precious at times, especially when the author uses exclamation marks to drive home the diabetes, I mean, cuteness. Holly Jane embodies the preciousness to an unrealistic degree – even when her life may be in danger, she can still weep… for Colt when she realized how horrible his past had to be. She’s selfless, sweet, devoted, and loving without much dark thoughts to mar her sunny and occasionally ditsy disposition.
Often, her goody-goody two shoes personality can sink into complete impracticality – she hates violence, you see, so she forces Colt to go without his weapons despite the fact that her neighbors are plotting to marry her off to one of their own by hook or by crook. You can guess what happens as a result, I’m sure. Holly Jane is a damsel in distress in this story – the author doesn’t even bother to mask this fact – and it’s face-meets-palm time every time her Greenpeace-meets-PETA attitude contributes to her getting in trouble. Colt is sensitive, protective, gallant, and selfless to a fault. He believes that Holly Jane is an angel who deserves something better than he, so he ends up putting her on a pedestal to the point that he lets her make silly decisions and force him to jump through hoops when he should have just told her to go bake him a pie. Following these two is like watching two silly puppies chasing one another in the playground. I should have been exasperated by them sometimes, but they are so much like silly but earnest kids that I can’t bring myself to do more than just roll up my eyes at them.
All things considered, Rebel Outlaw is a decent read, but it could use less sugar and a little more depth.