by Jennifer Ryan, contemporary (2013)
Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-226803-7
Saved By The Rancher is a competently written story that demonstrates how romance heroines can be, without a doubt, some of the most imbecilic creatures alive and no tear should be shed if they all happen to perish in a freak accident involving a stray asteroid. In fact, the average IQ of the remaining human population may just triple with the demise of these walking disasters.
For two years now, Jenna Caldwell has been trapped in a terrifying vicious game of her ex-husband. David Merrick treated her like a punching bag, and when she finally fled the scene, he spends the following years tracking her down, assaulting her brutally, and letting her run again as he gets ready for the next "hunt". When this story opens, Jenna survives another brutal assault, only to have Ben, her lawyer friend, finally direct her to the care of Jack Turner, an ex-military action dude turned rancher. Naturally, he and his sequel bait buddies rally to protect our heroine.
It sounds like another standard rescue fantasy, doesn't it, this story? Except, here's when things get... stupid. Jenna has money - lots of it, thanks to a generous divorce settlement. She can drop the dough on the spot for three rented cars before purchasing an SUV during her latest getaway. While she complains that she is "powerless" to use the money, she has no issues splurging the money on Jack's ranch like Santa Claus having a special hemorrhage of kindness.
And yet, throughout everything, she can't do anything with her money to protect herself. What, she can't walk into the nearest department store and buy a gun? Spend some money learning how to use it? No, she can spend money making people happy, but when it comes to her own life, she endures all kinds of brutal assault waiting for those brave strong men to come to her rescue.
Well, perhaps she's just one of those heroines who are slow to see sense. After all, shortly into the story, being inspired by Jack's manly presence, she decides to stand up for herself. So, instead of buying a gun, she puts in place a convoluted slow-acting plan that she won't share with Jack, a plan that only enrages the ex-husband further. And after all that nonsense, she practically walks into that monster's clutches for the grand rescue finale.
Why can't that idiot just buy a gun to protect herself? Maybe I'm not a bleeding heart like Jenna, but damn it, if some son of a bitch whacks me like that, I'd make sure I'd at least blow off his nose the next time he comes at me again. But no, Jenna sits cozily on her pile of money like a weeping Madonna waiting for stereotypical action men like Jack to save her. I completely lose it when she starts whining about not wanting to get some shots for her injury because she just can't stand pain, wah, wah. Am I evil to wish that David would show up then to choke her to death by shoving her hundred dollar bills down her throat so that she would stop being so pathetic and just do humanity a favor and die? And that's before she starts pulling off stupid stunts like running away for the sake of everyone else. Forget finesse - I just want David to run her down with a truck and then do it again a few times.
There is a complete short-circuiting of logic in this story, as the author, in her haste to mimic bestselling romance novel formula featuring bands of action men brothers, ends up making her heroine come off as an utter failure of a human being in every single way. Something's wrong when I end up feeling that we should have let that Jenna creature die because, my god, she has all that money and she can't even flee to Tibet or something? What the hell?
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