Onyx, $6.50, ISBN 0-451-41097-1
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Anna Jeffrey’s debut The Love of a Cowboy – well, I hate it. I never see the appeal of a man who is so hard and misogynistic while living in some rustic and rural environment. Not only is it madness to embark on a long-term relationship with a man who really needs some serious repair in character, it is also implausible that any sane woman will give up her comfortable home to squat over bushes and endure sweltering temperature, pregnant and overworked, cooking and cleaning while her cowboy man is out there terrifying the wildlife. Needless to say, the heroine of this book – who can love this man – is so spineless that she will rather suffocate on her own intestinal gas than to pull her own head out of her bum. They are perfect for each other.
Dahlia Montgomery is a really pathetic woman who openly admits to preferring to remain married to an abusive cheating jerk – until he died with his mistress beside him in an accident. Now she is a forest surveyor and she encounters our alpha-ass Luke McRae. They embark on an affair and our heroine continues to take abuse from everybody around her, including Luke. There are many things happening in this book, but they come straight out of a 1980s Diana Palmer or Elizabeth Lowell series novel. Luke hates all women, he pretty much all but grabs her hair and drag her to the bedroom (I love how he compares her to a brood mare and himself a stud), and Dahlia is putty in his hands. It is very hard to empathize with a woman who uses her own victimization to sell herself so short, she’d sleep with a man who doesn’t even utter a remotely tender word at her.
Of course she gets pregnant, and he, needless to say, isn’t above crying foul over it. Apparently his willingness to overlook the raincoat, so to speak, is forgotten because the world and the bitches are all conspiring to crap all over poor, poor Luke. Luke, if his barbarian misogynist caveman personality isn’t enough, also comes with the bitch mother from hell, children from hell, ex-wife from hell, handicapped son from manipulation hell, in fact, you know what, everything is from hell. Any sane woman will take one look at Luke and the baggage he comes with and run away screaming. Ah, but who says Dahlia and her infinite capacity for caregiving and enduring abusive BS, who says this woman is sane?
No, I can’t stand this book. It’s the same reaction I have whenever I try to read those old Elizabeth Lowell series novels. I have to put the book down soon or I will accidentally castrate a man in an attempt to preserve my own sanity. I can endure bad boys, but I will need my bad boys with a sense of humor and a big grovel in the end. Dahlia, however, seems incapable of getting out when the relationship becomes abusive. She is lucky in the end that Luke does an unconvincing turnaround.
There are some nicely written love scenes here, but who knows? Maybe Tina and Ike Turner had great sex too once upon a time. At least Tina Turner eventually walked away. Dahlia will be lucky if she finds a little bit of spine.
Well, fans of old school cruel-ass-hero romance books, go knock yourself out. Someone needs to balance out the increasingly bland and politically-correct romance novels, so Anna Jeffrey may as well be that person. I like my books with a little tenderness, a little love, and a hero who is worth it. I can’t find any of that here, I’m afraid.