The Texan
by Joan Johnston, contemporary (2001)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 0-440-23471-9


It must be tough being a psychiatrist. I can only imagine sitting in the office all day, listening to some self-absorbed people who can be more in love with the idea of being angsty rather than to help themselves, trying to find a way to say "Shut up and go buy my self-help book!" couched in euphemisms. Not that I'm saying all people that visit shrinks are self-absorbed whiners, but when a shrink encounter one of those whiners, I can only sympathize and admire the shrinks' tenacity.

Shrinks of the world, I salute thee.

The reason I am saying all this is because the main characters of The Texan are so intent on being unhappy that they turn themselves into stereotypes. I feel like a shrink listening to them whine and moan. How do you tell those losers to shut up and start boinking? Especially when the boinking is followed by more hand-wringing guilt on the boinkers' part?

The Texan is book two in Joan Johnston's Hillbillies Do Romeo + Juliet contemporary saga. It doesn't have the hipness of the updated movie version by Baz Luhrmann. It doesn't even have any sense of humor. Instead, we have Owen Blackthorne, stereotypical Texan loner, all in guilt because he injured Sam Creed in a football game (see The Cowboy). He is the sort of hard "Leave me alone to wank in my ranch!" Marlboro Man done to death by any ranch-o-phile romance author a million times over, with exactly the emotional baggages I can second guess two pages into the story.

Likewise, heroine Bayleigh Creed is the sort of heroine I can predict, second guess, and map out of memory. The martyr who will do anything to keep her unappreciative family together, who has been burned by so many exes that she can be her own fire extinguisher, and as whiny as they come.

Put two whiners on a quest to find her brother and solve the mystery of Luke's missing twin, and I get a cacophony of boring psychoanalyzing. Yes, yes, I know Luke doesn't like nobody coming between his love affair with his ranch, and I know Bayleigh is unhappy, feels unappreciated, feels unloved, and I know these two are two fucked-up miserable people, but how about some attempt to be different, yes? I mean, the least these miserable people could do is to whine in a different manner than all those stereotypical whiners with the same old predictable emotional baggages.

There is some attempt to create some government/military conspiracy plot behind Luke's twin's probable theft of some chemical weapons, and that's the most readable component of the story. At least when their hands and brains were busy, these two don't bore me to death with their self-absorbed neuroses.

The Texan could use some sense of humor. It takes itself so seriously, not knowing that it is itself pretty much a carbon copy of other mediocre contemporary "baggage" romances out there. Lighten up, get rid of those prissy undies, and do some naked bongo dancing. Heck, at the way these people whip themselves up bloody, I may even go as far as to suggest that Luke and Bayleigh try some happy recreational drugs. Getting stoned can sometimes be the way to live, dude and dudettes!

Rating: 50


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