Amelia And The Outlaw
by Lorraine Heath, historical (2003)
Avon, $4.99, ISBN 0-06-000914-4


I hate to dump on kiddies and starving artists, but gawd, the cover must be the ugliest I've ever seen. The artist seems to have just painted kiddie faces over the bodies of adults or something, because that boy's head is really too small for his body while the poor gal seems to have airplane landstrips for breasts and an unusually long bulge in her crotch that.. well, let's just say I hum Boy George's The Crying Game whenever I look at that cover. The whole artwork, in fact, begs for a risque caption. It's as if the "heroine" is pulling back her skirt to reveal the bulge of "her" humongous winkie ("Surprise!") and our hero is leering at it appreciatively.

The story inside though is nothing to shout about. It's the story of nineteen-year old ex-con Jesse Lawton who has to work in Judge Harper's ranch to prove to the judge that he is straight now and he will follow the law, yes sir. Complications ensue when the Judge's daughter Amelia starts making cow-lidded eyes at him. This story deals with Amelia insisting that Jesse cannot be a meanie because he is so hot/dangerous/sweet (depending on her mood) and Jesse repetitiously moaning that he is not worthy even as he indulges in G-rated kissing sessions with her. His pushing her away again and again only add to my really wishing that I can get into this story and knock some senses into these two. Hello, kids? Shut up or put out, please? Thanks, signed, a reader who has better things to do than to hear you two whine, sigh, and moo at each other. You two are not Catherine and Heathcliffe, more like Peter and Jane playing Cowboy and Mare, so knock it off now.

The repetitious whining on his part and the equally repetitious way she naively assumes the best in him because he is sooooo hot grate on my nerves after a while. I almost toss the book out the window, by the way, when Amelia tells me that she wants to be a judge just like her father, but oh dear, she "couldn't help but to wonder if she had it within her to sentence a man to prison. To take away his freedom when she so valued hers." May no sixteen-year-olds reading this book be ever that naive.

Maybe I'm just in a bad mood. Avon's True Romance line is nobly introducing young kids out there to the Great Generic that is their trademark after all. It's just that sometimes, when I read young adult novels like Kristen Downey Randle's The Only Alien On The Planet and marvel at how these authors can so realistically create a young conflicted teenage girl's personality or how they make a romance with an outsider so heartfelt even to a cynical old biddy like me, I wonder if Avon True Romance will ever come out with a book that truly captures the essence of a dreamy, imaginative young girl. Amelia And The Outlaw, like all the True Romances out there so far, are just watered down versions of the Great Generic that Avon is putting out for the adults. These True Romances are like pamphlets to Avon's Jehovah Witnesses - recruit, recruit, recruit!

I'm not expecting an Avon True Romance to win a Newberry (although hey, what's the harm in trying?), but books like Amelia And The Great Generic only make me sigh in equal parts disappointment and boredom.

Rating: 68


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