by Linda Broday, historical (2002)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5120-6
Oh, what a lovely cover. Now that's what I call a cowboy. It's just too bad that Knight On The Texas Plains tries to mix honky-tonk cowboy humor with more serious issues like spousal abuse only to come off like two pieces of jigsaw puzzle that don't really fit together. Also, the overuse of "Shucks!", "Tarnation!", and other annoying exclamations get on my nerves after a while.
But I like the hero and his brother. I wish I can erase the heroine out of the picture, make the lawman the hero's not kin, and have them both shagging like rabbits, Cowboy Slash Du Jour. The shady brother, Duel McClain (Ms Broday, you are hereby sentenced to write two hundred times on the blackboard, "I am not cheesy and I shouldn't even try"), saves a blood-soaked woman, Jessie Foltry, only to learn that Jessie is actually covered with her late husband's blood. See, she shot that abusive bastard, and now she's close to a breakdown. But Duel is a good guy. He'll pamper her. He'll teach her all about the sexual revolution. Watch out, Ms Broday, I think Catherine Anderson's giving you the evil eye.
But Duel's brother, Luke, is charged on bringing Jessie to justice. What now? Can Duel and Luke work things out between them? Maybe Jessie can clean Luke's house on Wednesdays and Saturdays and do Duel's laundry on Mondays and Thursdays.
Duel's a stereotypical guy - guilt-ridden over dead wife and kid, et cetera - but he's okay. Jessie is a bit more problematic - she's written as strictly rescue fantasy material, but on the most part, she seems a bit too calm and placid to be a badly abused woman. She's also a bit on the dim side, trusting Duel too easily and doing quite a few stupid things in this story in the name of plot.
Oh, and have I mentioned the stray orphan? Yes, there's one too. Jessie flexes her nanny power, Duel learns the joy of daddyhood, and everybody goes home happy. It's an overdone premise given very little new twist here.
In fact, there's very little innovation in this story. Where Knight In Texas Plains succeed in though is to entertain me pretty pleasantly. The humor can be off at places, but there are times when I find myself laughing unexpectedly. The heroine is unmemorable, but the hero and his brother are well-written, especially considering that they are both clichés. Jessie's traumatic past sometimes make me roll up my eyes - yes, I'm cynical that way - but I find myself feeling sorry for her at times too.
So all in all, Knight In Texas Plains is a hit-and-miss in every sense of the phrase. I like some aspects of it but not others. Since this is a debut author, I can only hope that she settles down soon and comes up with something more hard-hitting.
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