In Trouble's Arms
by Ronda Thompson, historical (2000)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4716-0


This book is in luck. It's all good timing: I'm still having a Michael Biehn/The Magnificent Seven high and the hunk on the cover is strangely appealing (looks like Ben Affleck a bit, I think). With the image of Michael Biehn waving his guns around the wild bad West, I managed to plough through the first really irritating two-thirds of In Trouble's Arms to arrive at the nice, glorious finale. Now that's good shoot-out fun, the ending chapters. It's too bad that while the hero Jake Winslow becomes a to-die-for hunk towards the end, heroine Loreen Matland never redeems herself from irritating Spunky hell. The Big Misunderstandings don't help either.

Loreen needs a mail-order hubby to help her with the farm and the kiddie siblings. When hubby-to-be Jake arrives, Loreen looks at him and decides that to meet the book's word count, she will not let him know that she also needs protection from the heinous bad guy Billy Waylan who killed her brother.

"Go shoot that bastard!" she tells Jake when the wedding vows are still ringing in their ears.

"Uh oh, I have a reason not to take up a gun ever again, but that'll be my Big Secret. Tit for tat, heh heh!"

"Coward!"

"Hussy!"

"Coward!"

"You... you... unfeminine tomboy!"

Okay, not exactly verbatim, of course, the exchange above, but that's exactly the gist of the first 200 plus pages. Squabble, babble, squabble, kiss, more squabble, rinse and repeat. Along the way she acts in a way that is supposed to be passed off as "independence and strength" (AKA "get in trouble and scream for help when it finds you"), and Jake retaliates by acting like a complete mule.

Only when, finally, they decide to kick the bad guy's ass that the dust settles down and things start to rock. Jake becomes a noble, tragic romance hero. Lori still act like a twit, but two out of two may be too much to ask for in a romance that has given me a bad headache in the first 260 pages.

Let me stick to Michael Biehn, thanks very much. And at least his Lori Holden girlfriend doesn't act typical either.

Rating: 47


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