Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81849-3
Historical Romance, 2001
Let’s see if I can make sense out of The Renegades: Rafe. Rafe Aigner and Madeleine Calhoun once were in love, so great were their love that they wanted to get married. Alas, Rafe, the misunderstood non-white trash of town, had to flee when he was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Maddy, however, had to take care of the obligatory sick daddy, and look, there was this newspaper business she had to run on her daddy’s behalf, and… flee, Rafe, flee like the wind! But she’d wait for him! She’d wait, she’d wait!
Twelve years later, our star-crossed lovers meet again, when he, now making a worthy living as a no-good professional gambler, wins Maddy’s newspaper business in a game. Rafe, however, is aghast when he realized that Maddy didn’t wait for him all these years. Instead, she went and… and marry some (now dead) buffoon.
Of course, Maddy marries the said buffoon only when she heard of Rafe’s “death”, and the buffoon had the courtesy to turn out useless, wastrel, and a brute to ruin Maddy’s expectations of men and the wedded state. I just love a hero who actually expects a woman to pine and long for him for twelve freaking years even as he romps around town without her knowing he’ll be back or not.
He also brings back a boy named Juanito, whom, naturally, Maddy bonds to, the natural mother figure she is. And of course, what’s a western romance without the usual capitalist pig, anti-freedom of speech evil bastard ranchers and landowners, gambler-hating thugs, and other assorted villains, right? Frankly, the plot sucks and the ending is solved as a result of a series of coincidences. I’m more appalled, however, by the premise that a woman should apologize for not waiting for a man for twelve years. If I were Maddy, I have better things to do than to wait for a man that long, and you bloody well can be sure that I won’t forgive that easy unless the man tells me Juanito is sired via immaculate conception. Here, Maddy must ask for Rafe’s forgiveness. Here’s my finger. I’m insulted.
Rafe could have been average but readable if holey in the plot if the entire conflict between Rafe and Maddy doesn’t insult my intelligence so. Rafe is a pig, Maddy is a doormat, and I wish she has given Rafe the fist of fury treatment that pig richly deserves.