by Susan Kay Law, historical (2004)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-052519-3
Susan Kay Law's A Wanted Man is a pleasant kind of mundanity. The characters are familiar but unobjectionable, the plot is recognizable but generally well-handled, the secondary characters are exactly who they are in so many books that come before this book, and the villain behaves exactly like I would expect him to behave. Everything about this book could have easily come from a catalogue of DIY Make-Your-Own-Romance-Novel accessories. I'm not saying that even a kid could assemble these parts as well as Ms Law did for A Wanted Man, but this book has the whiff of the hoi-palloi Ikean genericity to it when I am in the mood for something more... unique.
Another "Vigilante and the Poor Little Rich Girl" story, A Wanted Man has our rugged hero Sam Duncan - even his name comes straight out of Linda Howard's Bible of Names for Your Hero - approaching the poor little rich girl Laura Hamilton and telling her that he is her bodyguard that is hired by her father. Laura is on her rare trips out of her house and from her overprotective father. While she's not too sure about a bossy (if cute) bodyguard spoiling her trip, she doesn't doubt his story or try to verify it because she is just so convinced that her father will do such a thing. Hmm, I starting to think that it's not a matter of Daddy wanting to do such a thing as much as he has to do such a thing. What Laura doesn't know at first is that Sam is searching for his missing best friend (not in a homosexual way, of course) Haw Croaker and Laura is going to visit the very ranch that Sam has tried to get in previously and failed. That is why he is pretending to be her bodyguard. Hopefully Croaker hasn't croaked yet.
Once Sam helps thwart a robbery in their train, his cover is blown. Laura, however, is dreaming of adventures and larger-than-life outlaw heroes. Sam doesn't have to work too hard to convince her to let him "kidnap" her to set in motion a plot to help Croaker.
There is nothing truly wrong with this book. The pacing is a little off because the story takes place in a leisurely manner until very late in the book when everything takes place an at accelerated rush. But Sam is a pleasant stereotype, Laura doesn't annoy too much although she won't be the smartest heroine in town (therefore making her a pleasant kind of stereotype too). Their romance unfurl like a typical "Vigilante and the Poor Little Rich Girl" romance would, the secondary characters behave and love accordingly - really, everything in this book is so familiar, so pleasant, so adequate, and ultimately, so unmemorable because there are so many books out there that have the same characters rehashing the same kind of pleasantry and adequacy. It will do as a decent and entertaining read but it's just sadly not necessary.
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