The Scout
by Lynna Banning, historical (2003)
Harlequin Historical, $5.25, ISBN 0-373-29282-1

Constance Weldon and her sister Henrietta ("Nettie") are traveling along the Oregon Trail with a few other wagons, hoping to find a new life despite their father passing away before he can come with them. Constance is doing all the work while Nettie is busy being delicate. Sparks fly between Constance and Major John Montgomery, the man in charge of the band of Army Scouts that accompany and protect the group, but things get really ugly when the pregnant Nettie lets everyone believe that it is John that impregnated her and John is forced by his superior to do the right thing with Nettie.

Simply put, I am already struggling with the first half of The Scout due to the very inconsistent heroine, but by the last page, the heroine's severe martyr complex and her inability to sever herself from her sister that keeps taking advantage of her has disgusted me so much that Constance sickens me, truly. At the first half, the author doesn't seem to know what to do with Constance. Sometimes Constance's a smart heroine with self-awareness and insight on her everyday situation that is rare among today's trend of heroines coming off as dumb as doorknobs. But when the author wants conflicts in her story, Constance will do really stupid things like walking alone away from the others when she knows that there are angry Indians afoot and trying to make friends with said Indians when she should be screaming for help. But when Constance starts insisting that John marry Nettie and then moans and groans until she decides that she must have that One Special Hour In One Wonderful Night for herself, that's when I've really had enough. Even close to the ending, Constance's pathetic attempts at telling her sister to stop treating her like a doormat sees this woman beating herself up over it because Nettie is her sister and oh, Constance must always love her sister, sob sob sob.

Frankly, it is hard for me to respect people that willingly let themselves be used by others just to feel some sort of perverse sense of accomplishment about themselves. In this case, Constance knows she is being used, and she still justifies her letting herself be used by telling herself again and again that Nettie is her sister. Nettie is her sister... so? My sister will smack me if I make her do even a quarter of the things Nettie made Constance do and believe me, I will do the same if our roles are reversed. Instead of evoking my sympathies, Ms Banning instead makes me long to break something over Constance's head to knock some sense into that nitwit. Just what is it with these sadistic heroines, really?

Rating: 48

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