High Country Bride
by Linda Lael Miller, historical (2002)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 0-7434-2273-2


Poor super rancher Angus McKettrick. His three sons Rafe, Jeb, and Kade are useless, no-good whorin', gamblin', drinkin' sons of female dogs that spend more time in jail than working the fields of Triple M - that's the Triple Morons for you, and never let it be said that Angie baby here doesn't know how to name his ranch well - and Angie is sad. As he laments over the tombstone of his wife Georgia, he devises a plan. He will leave his ranch to the first son to marry and produce a son!

The sons in question begin clawing and jostling each other for to be the first to marry and procreate. Of course, they can't just marry their mistresses or produce their bastard kids, because remember, this is a romance novel and only virtuous virgins or forced-by-circumstances non-virgins are worthy of the love of dashing and drunk, womanizing, gambling addict brothel-patronizing male sluts! Aren't we women the lucky ones?

Linda Lael Miller must be weeping in joy over her brilliant plot. Me, I'm shaking my head in disgust. Serves the idiot Angie right if his sons marry three of the vilest shrews in town and they all do a Regan and Goneril on our King Lear here.

Naturally, a woman that actually marries one of the three sons must be on her way to half-wit city herself. Meet Emmeline Harding, only in this book, "intelligent" and "virtuous" are the euphemisms for lackwit behavior.

Emoo here is an unbelievably sheltered good and prissy gal despite being raised in a whorehouse. One day, she decides to have an adventure, pretends to be a whore and joins the party downstairs, drinks a bit too much, and oops, she wakes up in bed with a pile of coins for her on the bedside table. Oops. Did she...? Her aunt Becky, horrified, smacks her in the face, and Emoo here finally runs off and becomes a mail-order bride, because, you know, she is Shamed Forever and she must Never Be Happy Again because she is now a Harlot.

So she ends up being the bride of the eldest of the Triple M sibs, Rafe. The rest of the story sees Emoo and Rafe trying to adjust to their marriage as everybody from the Triple M cheer them on. Emoo becomes Superwife, Supercook, Supermommy, and the best ever.

Okay, Emoo isn't the brightest bulb around, but to her credit, she doesn't do too bad living on the ranch, thanks to the usual Token Minority Housemaid who is always close to make sure that Emoo doesn't dip her face into a pot of boiling water. The more problematic character here is Rafe. He is an idiot, plain and simple. He starts off the story being as mature as a ten-year old overgrown bully, continues acting like a bird-brained idiot throughout, and finally undergoes a miraculous transformation into Prince Charming by the end thanks to the great Plot Chop-Chop Resolution by Ms Miller there. Since Rafe is an idiot, Emoo and Rafe have plenty of arguments. These arguments are valid ones - Emoo is smart enough to not want to be treated like dirt by her husband. But the arguments always end in Rafe kissing her and Emoo forgetting everything thanks to the Magic Dipstick of the Biggest M here. And since the sex isn't even hot, it's hard to even say that the sex is good enough to recommend this guy.

Instead of actually taking time to make that idiot grow up, the author chooses to instead give Rafe the upper hand towards the later parts of the story by creating a typically stupid conflict - the one where the heroine deliberately cuts her own nose off to spite everybody because the hero wants to help her without telling her the "I love you" thing first. Until this stage, I'm on my way to seeing Emoo as a dim but likeable heroine. After the ridiculous "I'm a whore, I'm a slut, I don't deserve a drunkard, womanizing idiot husband because he is too good for me!" nonsense she pulls, I'm back to seeing her as a class B idiot (as opposed to the Class A idiot that is Rafe McCrappick here).

There are two more moronic McCrappick brothers waiting to have their books out. Let's hope the author actually sits down and works on her story for once instead of letting the formulae blindly guiding her pen like the Ouija board from hell. High Country Bride provides the Hi-Lo stupidity in the unwacky, unfunny world of Wild West Tomfoolery, and I don't find it any bit amusing at all.

Rating: 57


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