Beloved Protector
by Linda O'Brien, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81344-0


All you readers who can't wait for Connie Mason to unleash her newest masterpieces onto the civilized world, you just have to dash to your nearest bookstore (hint: the link below) and grab a copy of Beloved Protector now. The alpha hero with a case of unreasonable misogynia, a heroine who for too long stumbles and babbles like a complete idiot, and a plot and prose that are as clumsy as they are badly-done. Linda O'Brien's stories haven't reached that first class vapidity Connie Mason's stories have reached (yet?), but her latest will surely trigger a wave of yearning and nostalgia in Connie Mason fans everywhere. For me, however, it's as fun as having my teeth extracted through my nostrils using a monkeywrench.

Eliza Howe receives a telegram from an old friend Eileen. Eileen needs a thousand dollars because she and her husband are trying to flee to Mexico. Apparently, Mr Eileen here is accused for some crime he didn't commit, so oh, Eliza decides to drop all, travel from Chicago to Wyoming with the money, and help her friend.

Hey, Eliza, I'm your old friend from school. My dog is ill. Please send three thousand dollars ASAP. Thanks. If possible, can you make sure that the money reaches me by Saturday? That way, I can buy a new dress, I mean, give my dog an operation it so dearly needs, before a friend's wedding next week.

Eliza has a slightly smarter aunt who makes Eli here take a bodyguard with her. In comes Case Brogan, tortured Pinkerton's agent, who is as surly and mean as Eli is optimistic and unflaggably good-spirited. Of course, this is a romance novel, a lousy one, so "optimistic" here is more akin to Eli walking around town high on weed and intoxicated on stupidity. She also wants to be an opera singer, so expect her to burst into song at the weirdest moments. And you say she isn't a junkie?

Case, on the other hand, sings that old broken tune about all women being untrustworthy and conniving. There's no plausible reason why he should feel this way, however, so I think I'll chalk his behavior and "kiss-you-taunt-you" repertoire to congenital misogynia. The romance lunkers like an old World War 2 jeep running on empty, with the usual see-you/want-you/kiss-kiss/push-push confusion and miscommunication stuff passed off as "sexual tension".

Late into the story, things get better a little, with Case finally growing a brain cell and Eli showing signs of brain activity (maybe she will voluntarily check into rehab next week). But for too long this story stumbles and flails around like a zombie out of a bad B-grade horror movie, trying to find direction, focus, characterization, and readability.

And out of curiosity, how much is a thousand dollars back in the 19th century anyway? Is Eileen planning to build a marijuana empire in Tijuana or something with that thousand dollars? Hmmm, that might be a more interesting story than this standard bodyguard-and-his-big-gun romance.

Rating: 51


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