Renegade
by Stobie Piel, historical (2001)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4828-0


Sigh. Stobie Piel is like the raw, talented student in a creative writing class. You know, she has all these amazing ideas. Too bad the conductor of the class is a lousy tutor, and the end result is lots of writing with great ideas and lots of possibilities, but no one would probably care. Not when they run away screaming from the implausible plot twists and really inconsistent characterization. Aspirin, anyone?

Renegade is the latest in this author's long backlist of "could've been wonderful" books. It has a Zorro element with a mixed cast of mainly Hispanic, Chinese, and Indian characters (fancy that!) set in New Mexico, late 1800s. The hero, Rafael de Aguirre, is a mild-mannered schoolteacher who moonlights as the Renegade, a masked superhero who comes to the defense of the increasingly stiffed Zuni Indians. Every superhero needs a love interest, so the love interest in this story is Evelyn Reid, wife of his best friend Westley Reid. Ooh boy.

But Reid dies. Yay. In an accident, or murder, as Evelyn suspects. She suspects the Renegade to the be the foul fiend responsible. And then she unmasks the Renegade and realizes that he is - gasp! Her husband's trusted friend! She ends up kidnapped by the Renegade as he attempts to clear his name. A villain, Don Rafael, I mean, James Talbot wants Rafael dead because he wants the lands Rafael is protecting. He also wants Evelyn. Ooh.

Thing is, gosh, can the execution of the story be any more inconsistent? One moment Rafe and Evelyn are supposed to be friends. Then they behave as if they hardly know each other. Evelyn declares that she hates Rafe and will never trust him again. Then she declares that she loves him and will trust him. Then she decides he can't be trusted and stupidly puts them both in trouble. She loves him. No, she hates him! She loves him and will tell her parents about him! That bastard!

Someone hand me the Dramamine.

It's the same with Rafe. He loves her. He doesn't want to be with her, she's not for him. He will do anything to win her. No, a while later he is pushing her away again. Then they're making love now. Then he's back to being cold to her. Can these people make up their mind?

And Renegade has no continuity at all. Characters do things that contradict themselves just to further a plot. Sometimes scenes are retold, with contrasting versions sometimes pasted back to back. It's like the author has just Fed-Exed her rough manuscript to the editor, who, probably after a bad hangover that lasted way into her deadline, decides to publish it without any attempt to look at it, much less polish it up. And it is readers like me who have to end up scratching their heads. I do wonder just what exactly is going on in the minds of the characters as they act more like robots controlled by several different people than being a remotely believable character. I doubt even the author knows.

Rating: 47


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