Wouldn't you think that with so few western romances being published these days that the cream would rise to the top? Apparently not. Case in point, His Boots Under Her Bed by Ana Leigh, my first read of 2007 and a big, fat D. Heaven help us all.
This is the third book in the Fraser brothers series. I believe I have the first one lying around somewhere at home, which means I need to dig through the Rubbermaid Totes this weekend, find it, and toss it in the used bookstore bag. Anyway, this is Garth Fraser's story.
Sidenote here: While Garth is a fairly "old school" name, ever since Wayne's World it's probably not a good idea to use it as a name for your romance hero. But I'm probably showing my age here.
The Civil War is over and Garth has the itch to go to California. His favorite uncle has left him the map to his legendary gold mine, and Garth is just sure he'll make his fortune. Along the way he stops at a saloon for a drink and a prostitute (the man has needs after all) and meets up with Rory O'Grady. Rory doesn't take paying customers upstairs. She's saving her virginity for her husband, but hasn't found a decent candidate for the job yet. Instead Rory charges customers for the privilege of dancing with her.
Then a bunch of stuff happens, all of it mindnumbing. Rory saves Garth from two goons who try to shanghai him. Garth propositions Rory about three times in the first 100 pages and she gets insulted by his innuendoes. Rory's drunken idiot father who will not just die already steals Garth's map but tells Rory that Garth handed it over willingly. Rory knows how important that mine is to Garth, but believes her father because the idiot apple didn't fall far from the idiot tree. They high tail it out of town, claim the mine for their own, Garth shows up pissed, believes Rory stole the map (although her father is the more obvious culprit) and dang, he just knew she was foolin' him with her good girl, virgin act! But no matter, he can't stay mad for long and the two join forces. Then the only conflict left is whether they'll find gold and when Rory will toss up her skirts for Garth.
Lord help me, I think my eyes are bleeding.
I think the author was conflicted over Rory's Daddy. He's an asshole and a drunk, but Rory happily traipses along with him (he's a dreamer and a drifter) because she's all he has. Of course the term enabling wasn't around in the 19th century, so there you go. Most of the time Daddy acts like a jackass, but does develop a conscience on occasion when the plot dictates it. I think the author wanted me to "like" him, but instead the heroine comes off as too-stupid-to-live for putting up with him.
Coupling the cardboard characters, weak plot, and nearly non-existent conflict, we have the famous All Tell And No Show writing style. The author is telling the reader the story instead of unfolding it through the eyes of the characters. The ending doesn't help matters since it makes no sense whatsoever. Spoiler: Dear Uncle left a pregnant wife behind when he died that the Fraser family didn't know about - yet he doesn't tell wifey about the gold mine on his death bed (or before then)? We're talking years here between his death and when Garth shows up to claim the mine. Hello, she's having your baby jackass! What a great guy! Spoiler End
And did I mention we have the ubiquitous bathing scene? You know the one. The hero gets a chubby after spying on the heroine bathing at a waterfall (Hey, he didn't mean to! He happened upon her by accident!). That clinched it for me. When a western romance has such a scene you know it's a "bad" western. Trust me on this. Every bad western I've ever read has a bathing scene.
A friend of mine, who also likes westerns, asked me how this book was going while I was in the middle of slogging through it. She said, "I haven't read Leigh since I stopped reviewing. I always found her books rather bland." Good description. Bland just about covers it.