Walker's Widow
by Heidi Betts, historical (2002)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4954-6


It is very hard for me to write this review about Heidi Betts' Walker's Widow. No, it's not a hard book to rate. It's just so unmemorable and dull that I am hard-pressed to muster any enthusiasm to write this review.

Anyway, this story tries to be many stories at one go. It tries to be a Mommy(-in-law) Matchmakes The Young 'Uns Happy Hour. It tries to be a Robin Hood Heroine story. It tries to be A Murder Whodunnit. But what it succeeds in becoming is 395 pages' worth of sleeping pill effect.

But one thing I must say - the author knows how to cover her tracks. Any stupid thing the heroine does in this story has a good excuse behind it: Regan Doyle faints early on in this story and hits her head against the floor with a loud crack. Twice. And when it comes to romance heroines, they can't afford to lose too many brain cells, so the damage is done. All is forgiven, Regan, when the men in white come to drag you to the padded cell.

But Regan isn't that stupid. She's just hysterical. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The plot confuses me, but I'll just spell it out the best I can anyway. Regan is a widow, hence the title of this story. Her previous marriage isn't a nasty one, just a boring one. Her husband left her lots of money, which she only spends on naughty underwear. The rest she leaves to her mother-in-law Mother Doyle and the orphanage of the town of Purgatory, called the Purgatory Home for Unwanted Children. (What a lovely name for an orphanage. I bet all the kids in that place have amazingly high self-esteems. What do they call themselves? The Alumni of Purgatory Unwanteds?)

So she has money. But at the same time she robs the rich people in Purgatory to finance activities at the Unwanted Home for Pariah Brats. I'll get back to you on that one after I hit my head against the wall until I see light. And in a shanty town like Purgatory, just how many rich people are there anyway? Hmm. There has to be many, for a Texas Ranger like Clayton Walker to come over to investigate the robbery. So why is Purgatory a less than booming town if there are so many rich people around?

And don't think that Regan is some Michelle Yeoh babe jumping over walls and gliding on rooftops like some ubercool chick. The rich people of Purgatory, it seems, don't lock anything, so Regan just waltzes in for some freebie grab-o-rama. Okay. I guess when it comes to romance heroines, I have to lower the standards of judgement when it comes to their intelligence. I guess Regan is on her way to passing her Romance Novel Land version of SAT.

Regan's mom-in-law feels blue that Regan is spending more time in the flower gardens instead of having a man spending time in her flower gardens. So Mother Doyle manipulates events via the ever-reliable letter delivery service of that time to bring her nephew Clayton to solve the mysteries. See, Mother Doyle knows that Clayton and Regan, uhm cousins-in-law or whatever you call their relationship, will be right for each other. I mean, so what if he's a Texas Ranger sent to investigate the spate of robberies here? We law-abiding citizens expect our law enforcers to spend time courting girlies instead.

Clayton meets Regan in her robbery garb the moment he arrives. Seriously, even he wonders how he can be so lucky. Regan escapes, but the next time she sees Clayton, she hits her head twice hard on the floor.

I cheer at that point. Am I cruel?

I can go on about the Half-Breed Kiddie Needs Love thing, the Murder thing, the Fat Ugly Sheriff Thing, but everything is layered over in a snail's crawl pace. It is one thing to be slow, but when slow is slow because of predictable, hackneyed Western subplot thingies, it becomes really slow, if you know what I mean.

Clayton is pretty much baggage free, except for his no-commitment thing. I guess we all need a conflict somewhere. On one hand, I'm pretty pleased at the lack of long-drawn painful misunderstandings when Regan's secret is inevitably exposed. On the other hand, I have my doubts about a law enforcer whose morals are so flexible that he can easily turns a blind eye at his girlie's crime spree. Okay, well, she does it for the kiddies, after all, but still, this is not exactly a Tarantino road show either.

On the other hand, Regan doesn't emote anything half-way. She blasts everything out in super hysteria. People worry, but she grips hard objects until her fingers hurt and there are imprints on that object. She doesn't fear, she faints dead and cracks her head hard on floors twice. She doesn't panic, she explodes. I fear for her kids, I really do.

Oh yeah, the murder thing, where the heroine is the prime suspect. No biggie there either. It's the best done thing in this incoherent story, maybe because it almost makes sense, but it's nothing spectacular. After all, what can beat the wonderful sound of the heroine's skull cracking the floor boards? It's too bad this is no video, because I'd love to put that scene on instant replay. Can you imagine the wonders that will do for bad days?

Rating: 64


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