by Pam Champagne, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-509-8
Pam Champagne's Bed Of Lies is exactly the kind of the book that drives me crazy. The main characters keep all kinds of secrets from each other and when they have to talk, even when their guilt intensifies they... won't. The heroine goes through extreme lengths to martyr herself for the family, including marrying a scumbag. The hero plays the race card against anyone who does him wrong while being far from reasonable himself. All these come together to make me want to grab the hero's braids and pull until he screams for his Mommy.
Ace Bear, who's with the DEA, breezes back into Spruce Harbor, Maine to bust up a drug ring although from the rest of the story I'd think he's some kind of happy vigilante since he often acts as if he doesn't have to answer to his superiors. The first thing he does is to attend Brenna McKenzie's wedding at the church, wanting to break it up, but someone shoots the bridegroom and thus spares Ace further trouble. Ace and Brenna had a thing until a misunderstanding occurred thanks to her father involving a baby that died (if you ask her) or thrown off to him without a care (if you ask him). Brenna is also knee-deep in trouble thanks to her wanting to protect a brother who may be involved with the drug dealers. The usual song and dance commence.
Ace is a piece of work, I tell you. He loves calling people who are mean to him as prejudiced bigots who don't like his Cree heritage, but at the same time this is one twit who judges Brenna as guilty without ado (he insists that Brenna was already an adult back then and should know better... like he does, I suppose), and when he realizes that Brenna is not the person he thought she was, he still won't tell her the truth about their kid. Instead, he's all about "No matter what, remember... I love you!" Dude, you ditched her back then when she was pregnant, your word doesn't mean much at the moment. Of course, even when he isn't thinking highly of her, he is more than happy to sleep with her. After all, as he tells her, someone needs to take care of her. I don't know how to fully describe in words how this patronizing jackass makes me feel. I need a volunteer to step up so that I can put my hands around his neck and demonstrate exactly how I feel.
Brenna has a tendency to be a martyr but compared to Ace, she's not so bad a character. She actually tries to call Ace on some of the crap he pulls on her, but ultimately she's complete putty when Ace lays on that randy tomcat act on her really thick. In the end she announces that she's okay with Ace because she doesn't expect her hero to come in a shining armor. That's a fine statement if it doesn't come from a heroine who has already displayed a tendency to martyr herself. I worry for Brenna. Her taste in men isn't the best, to say the least.
The thing is, Ms Champagne knows that her characters, especially Ace, are unnecessarily prolonging the whole miscommunication issue. She has Brenna weakly rip a new one on Ace for all the right reasons. But even if she knows how silly Ace is being, Ms Champagne goes ahead with the plot anyway, to the point that even the whole drug ring subplot turns into a contrivance to keep Brenna with Ace even when Ace is being a complete moron. There are some aspects of the drug ring subplot which don't make sense to me, but I have bigger issues about how eventually everything in this story seems to turn into an excuse to prevent Brenna from walking away from Ace.
Ultimately, Bed Of Lies gives me this impression that the author is aware that Ace is a complete twat at times, but she makes sure that the plot conspires to make sure that Brenna cannot get away from Ace no matter what. How bizarre, really.
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