Rough Wrangler, Tender Kisses
by Jill Gregory, historical (2000)
Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-23548-0


Halfway reading through Rough Wrangler, Tender Kisses, I had to double-check to see if I'd not bought Dumb Wanker, Neanderthal Kisses by mistake. It also seemed spooky that I was in the midst of an online debate about whether society was becoming too anti-intellectual when I read this book. I was opposing that motion in the debate, but after this book and its glorification of redneck ignorance and mule-like arrogance, I am compelled to agree.

The hero of this Western, Wade Barclay, is so cowboy that he would probably have those into dirty, arrogant, no-mannered cowboy fantasies salivating. He has this chip on his shoulder the size of the entire state of Texas - the ranch is his life, his focus, his truth, his reality, and he doesn't hesitate to bludgeon heroine Caitlin Summers in the head repeatedly for daring to contradict him. He's stupid, but hey, in the end he is celebrated for it.

Long live the anti-intellectuals.

Caitlin Summers is a City Girl traveling to the dirty ol' West to sell the ranch her father left her. Her father and she hadn't been in communication at all, and she believes all this while he never cared for her. Since she needed money for her and her sister, she will sell that stupid ranch.

But Wade and his redneck brothers, who have been adopted by this dead father of Cait, wouldn't sell. Wade tries to strong-arm her into staying. Finally, they fall in love and Cait gives up her dreams to play rancher wife.

It is so exasperating, because first Cait's father, then Wade randomly decide Cait's fate - "Missy, we know what's good for ya!" - and Cait loves them in the end for it. Not that Cait isn't any fine heroine, for she stomps, pouts, and whines like the stereotypical Ally McBeal in Neurosesland. I completely lost respect for her when she succumbs to the Neanderthal Wade who browbeats her, mocks her sissy city ways, and keeps all sorts of secrets from her with nary a fight. Wimp.

And Wade's idea of courtship is to kiss every lady in sight, in front of Cait, then proclaim that he knows Cait's the right one for him because he thinks of her while he's kissin' those birdies, and besides, they remind him of her anyway. With such charming debonair, how can a woman resist such cowboy, eh?

I wonder if he bathes often.

Come to think of it, I completely dislike both Wade and Cait. He's a dumb brute, she's a wimpy wuss. When I find myself cheering the villains - "Kill her! Kill her! And kill him too! And make it slow and excruciating for them both!" - well, I think Rough Wrangler, Tender Kisses definitely missed the bullseye where I am concerned.

Rating: 49


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