Besides the fact that they still regularly publish westerns, another reason I love Harlequin Historical books so much is that I can typically plow through one in a day. When I read faster, I read more, and am able to temporarily delude myself into thinking I'm actually making progress on the TBR mountain range that's taken up residence in my home office.
Unfortunately I hit a skid of Her Lone Protector by Pam Crooks. A book I should have finished in a day took me the better part of the weekend to get through. Why? Because of the idiot heroine. The rest of the book is great. The setting and writing are well done - and while the hero tends to be a little too rah-rah patriotic for me at times, it's the idiot actions of the heroine that sink what could have been a good read for me. The worst part of it was - she didn't have to be a moron.
Creed Sherman is a mercenary for the U.S. government. Basically he's like the CIA, Secret Service and a marine all rolled into one. After years away from his family, he comes home to Los Angeles to finally marry his sweetheart - only to discover she's already married to his father! That's mildly icky. Creed is naturally unthrilled, of course the asshole hasn't written home in like 6 years - but hey, he's not at fault! He can't believe she didn't wait for him (dumb ass - if you want the woman to wait for you try finding a mail box on occasion).
Anyway, he heads back to town to discover a local factory on fire (think the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory). He rushes into help with the rescue when he meets Gina Briganti, a beautiful Italian immigrant who was separated from her mother. Creed vows to protect Gina and find her mother. See, Gina witnessed two unhappy Russian immigrants (both anarchists) deliberately set the fire. Plus, President McKinley is scheduled to come to town, and the government has gotten wind that his life is in danger. So Creed sets out to save the President, protect Gina and find her mother.
I don't expect my heroines to be Super Women. They don't need to know Jedi mind tricks, kung fu, or how to shoot an Uzi. However, I expect a little common sense. When Creed tells Gina to "stay put" what do you think our heroine does? Of course - she goes off half-cocked, almost gets herself killed, and Creed has to keep saving her. She doesn't do this once, or twice - but three times. See Wendy's eyes glaze over.
I suspect the author did this to ratchet up the conflict - which was totally unnecessary. Gina saw the bad guys set the fire. Frankly, isn't that enough? Do we really need her putting on a pathetic disguise and infiltrating an anarchist meeting? Or riding up to the hide-out while Creed is confronting (and almost catching) the bad guys? Or do we need her running off in the climax because she finally found out what hospital her mother is at - and instead of waiting until Creed does his job she gets abducted by the bad guys thus putting her worthless hide in danger, as well as Creed's, the President's, and a few secondary characters. Your mother is fine cupcake, just do as you're told for 5 bloody minutes.
Seriously, why didn't he just nail her feet to the floor?
So what we have here is technically a western, although the Los Angeles setting gives it a nice urban feel, some good writing, and a heroine I want to strangle. Not a good mix. Final Grade = D+.