If I'm to believe the press release I have on Stacey Kayne, she's going to have four books, all westerns!, released in 2007 from Harlequin Historical. I just wrapped up Mustang Wild, her debut due out in March, and I wish I could say it was remarkable, stupendous and fantastic. Unfortunately, while I think Kayne can write, and there's enough promise here to make me try her next novel, Mustang Wild was pretty much a dud for me.
The first stumbling block is the first chapter. If you're able to swallow it, then this book is likely going to work for you. Since I found it highly improbable, it didn't bode well. Skylar Daine is a first class mustanger anxious to get her herd back. The villain back-shot her Daddy and stole their horses. Sky and her younger brother, Garret, manage to escape and their first order of business is to find Chance Morgan. Daddy Daines was in partnership with Morgan, and Sky needs to find him so they can thwart the villain.
Sky walks into a New Mexico saloon only to meet up with Tucker Morgan (Chance's twin brother). Before she knows it, she finds herself married to the drunken cowboy. How does this happen? Well Tuck wins the license in a poker game and drunkenly convinces the "angel" to sign the paper. Sky, having the sense God gave a bag of rocks, signs the paper without reading it, so anxious is she to get out of the saloon and on the trail. So they're legally wed, and have to wait until Wyoming to get it annulled.
Further complicating the issue is that Sky is holding the deed to the Morgan's Wyoming ranch. Daddy Daines wanted collateral on their partnership and in another moment of stupidity, Chance Morgan hands over the deed. Sky thinks the deed is really hers. Her father knew of her desire to have a "real home," and threatened with the prospect that his best worker might leave him high and dry, he lies to his daughter to get her to do this one last job. The Morgans are incensed. They worked hard for that ranch and no woman is going to jump in and steal it (well then don't give away the deed numb-nuts). But Sky is the best damn mustanger around, and they need her help to get Tuck's horses to Wyoming. Chance has proof back at the ranch that Daddy Daines lied to his baby girl, so they'll just have to put up with each other until they get there.
Assuming the reader can get past the improbable set-up, the romance doesn't do much to endear itself. Adversarial relationships are extremely hard to write, and I suspect authors keep trying because they like the challenge (Only Laura Lee Guhrke has made this plot work for me with her excellent pre-Avon romance Breathless). Sky and Tucker spend the whole blessed novel bickering. She's used to working as a trail boss, he despises the idea of marriage thanks to an evil stepmother (which begs the question - I don't care how drunk he was, why did he ask a strange woman to sign a marriage license if he hates the institution so bloody much?). They kiss, they fight, they kiss, they fight, they have sex, they fight, Wendy thinks about ramming a fork up her nose, they have sex, they fight, they defeat the villain, they live happily ever after.
Sky should have been my type of heroine, independent, tough, not afraid of hard work, but between her prickly nature, constant bickering, and her sexual naivete, I just couldn't muster up much "like" for her. What I really couldn't wrap my mind around was how a woman who has spent her whole life living on the trail surrounded by men could be so sexually clueless. Daddy Daines is hardly Father Of The Year material, so it's amazing Sky comes off as so incredibly sheltered. I didn't buy it.
I think Kayne can write a pleasing story, and I rather enjoyed Garret - but given this is a romance, I'm thinking it's a not good thing that I'm more intrigued by the heroine's relationship with her brother than the one brewing between her and the hero. That's just me though.
So Final Verdict = D+. I really, really wanted to like this one, but between the improbable set-up and the constant bickering I just couldn't make myself.