by Beth Williamson, historical (2005)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-048-7
This western historical romance with a slight paranormal element to it has an appropriately melodramatic romance between the main characters that I find appealing, but the basic internal conflict and the characters' dealing with this conflict are what brings the book down. Simply put, this is the story of our hero Jake Malloy who is tormented by nightmares every night to the point that he is close to breaking point, and our heroine Rebecca Connor, the best friend of Jake's sister who also features prominently in Jake's nightmares. No, not like that, she's not that scary. Really! Because of this, Jake knows that he can't blame Rebecca for what is basically his problem but he finds it very difficult to deal with Rebecca, especially when he's attracted to her. A blizzard will force them to remain in close quarters together one day, and that's when things - you know, things - have to happen.
I am still not very sure as to why Jake is having those dreams but I am sure, however, that I am not pleased with how the author has her characters behave in a clichéd manner. Rebecca's secret is a popular plot device used by authors who can't think of anything better to make their heroines filled with guilt and self-loathing, and that is before Rebecca launches into a tedious "He doesn't deserve me, he can't love me, because I'm a no good person, aiyeeeee!" melodramatic pity party of one. Jake is another character who loves to play the martyr too much. The tedious and contrived misunderstanding thingie towards the end, which is a convenient way to prolong the played-out "I'm not worthy, I suck" blues, is the nail on the coffin where I'm concerned.
It's not that this book is bad. The writing is clean and the romance between Jake and Rebecca, in those moments when they're not trying too hard to be contrived wannabes in some bad soap opera, resonates with melodramatic passion and tenderness. It is therefore unfortunate that pretty much everything else about this story, from the characters to the plot developments to the resolution, is just flat-out overplayed and overdone. The Prize is like another retelling of a same old story without any significant deviation from the norm. It's like eating the same meal again and again day in and day out. Eventually I'm all for this book to end very quickly so that I can move on. It's not that the book is bad, of course, it's just that I've had too many variations of the same thing coming my way and I've had pretty much enough of it!
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