Saturday, November 1, 2008

How To Lose Friends & Alienate People

My last several reads have been on the disappointing side, so I thought it was time to take drastic action. Yep, I went back to my comfort food of choice, Harlequin Historical westerns. Then I figured, why not Jenna Kernan? She hasn't disappointed me yet, and Turner's Woman happens to be one of Sybil's most favoritest reads ever. Surely, nothing could go wrong...could it?

Jake Turner is traveling west on a super secret mission for President Andrew Jackson when he comes across a massacre in progress. A young woman, traveling with a group of idiot men, have run afoul of some Crow warriors. Seems the idiot men decided it might be fun to ride across a sacred burial ground and take some souvenirs. The men are goners, but Jake is on decent enough terms with this particular band that they let him take the woman. The chit certainly throws a wrench in the works, and he has absolutely no use for women, but his conscience pretty much forces him to save her sorry butt.

Emma Lancing was on her way to meet up with her father, a rendezvous she is not looking forward to since the man is an abusive tyrant. She's completely unsure what to do. Jake seems unwilling to go out of his way to reunite her with her asshole Daddy, and she's not about to travel off by her lonesome. So when Jake offers her a choice, she decides that she's going to travel with him. Why not? For the first time in her life she's in control of her destiny, and having an adventure sounds positively grand.

Emma is a fantastic heroine. Oh, how I loved this girl! She starts out this story shell-shocked. Almost like someone suffering from post-traumatic stress. Indian massacre aside, living under her father's tyrannical rule for her entire life, watching her mother succumb to madness only to be eventually shipped off to a mental ward, has left Emma completely unsure of herself. She has no life. She's essentially a prisoner. What Jake offers her is a chance at freedom. I loved watching this girl blossom into a woman, become more sure of herself, and discover that not only does she have a brain in her head, she knows her own mind. She's calling the shots now, and her Daddy can't say a damn thing about it.

The fly in the ointment is Jake - who is by far not anywhere near good enough for Emma. Man, is this guy a jackass! All woman are evil. Why? Yeah, you guessed it - he grew up back east and and some slutty Miss Thang tried to hog-tie and trick him in to marriage. That's women for you! Our sole purpose in life is to ruin a man's life by throwing the marriage noose around his neck. Then we climb into his bed, practically rape the guy, so we can get ourselves bunches of babies so he's tied to us forever! Insert maniacal laughter here.

This jackass idiot asshole keeps up this nonsense for the whole damn story. He treats Emma like a leper, despite the fact that she continually saves his sorry ass time and again over the course of the story. Seriously. This asswipe should have been killed at least three times by my count - and Emma, dear sweet wonderful Emma, keeps rescuing his sorry butt, for reasons that totally escaped me.

Seriously, how I loathed this "hero." He sped right past Alpha territory and went straight into Why Hasn't He Been Castrated With A Dull Spoon Yet territory.

So where does that leave us? Great heroine. Great, great, great heroine. Seriously. I'd totally go gay for Emma. Also, Kernan continues to be one of the very few authors mining the western landscape pre-Civil War era (basically when everything west of the Mississippi was the middle of nowhere). Her settings are almost like secondary characters to her stories, and this one is no exception.

But Jake! Oh Lord - this guy needed to be shot. Or stabbed. Or strung up by his Mr. Happy. Seriously, I can't decide which. All I know is that Emma was way to good for this assmunch and deserved way better. Unfortunately, this being a romance and him the only hero on the horizon, she's stuck with him. Poor girl.

Final Grade = C+

Seriously, this is my fourth C read in a row. I'm starting to get punchy.


Lori said...

For me, it' usually the other way around, where I hate the heroine and love the hero. So it's interesting to see a book where it's reversed.

JenB said...

OMG. I love this review. This sounds exactly like what I went through in a recent horrible reading slump. I got so sick of reading crappy books that I just started re-reading my keepers.

I'm like Lori in that I usually hate the heroine and love the hero. I might have to read this just for the role reversal.

azteclady said...


Liza said...

It drives me crazy when I really don't like one of the main characters. I've been pretty lucky with my choices lately. Hope your next book is a winner.

sybil said...

I LOVE emma. She is truly such an awesome character, who goes from being a sheltered girl to stand on her feet and find her own worth.

Jake goes on too long and I adored how the book ends but could have used a few more pages for grovel.

I read Diana Palmer, you know this *g*. But Emma, the setting, the action overshadow Jake's faults I think.


Wendy said...

Sybil: Emma is beyond awesome! I am totally gay for Emma. But Jake? Ugh, I just couldn't deal. Every time he opened his mouth and said something assholey, it just reinforced how unworthy he was of her.

Did I mention how awesome she was? LOL

It might have worked better for me if Jake had seen the error of his ways sooner. As it is, he says something really hateful towards the end, and because of that I wanted A LOT more groveling. Like about 50 pages worth or non-stop groveling.....

Everyone else: I'm a freaky romance reader. Great heroines get me every single time. I can appreciate great heroes, but without a great heroine no amount of good writing and hunky hunkiness is making the book a keeper. Just won't. I needs me that heroine.

sybil said...

I think it is that it is so rare to see the heroine take charge and save the day without losing something.

I love her moments of panic and the way she pulls her shit together. She is so very human. But honestly at one point I was like, ok can she go back for the brit *g*.

And it is unbelievable that Jake goes all wiggy on her in the tent, like she knew what they were giving him. She was just focused on saving his ass.

But he was just a man *g*. It was worth reading for Emma don't you think?

sybil said...

Of course for anyone who doesn't know it I am a complete Harlequin Historical whore and loveses the Western.

And I do read palmer and love the old ones ohhh and Elizabeth Lowells old books... so assholes must be my book thing LOL

Rosie said...

Huh, there it sits on my keeper shelf. I so don't remember this sort of reaction. Although it's NOT my fave Kernan.

Wendy said...

Sybil: And when she does "take charge" it's believable - which was a nice change of pace. It's not like she goes from sheltered girl to kick-ass super babe in one paragraph. It's a gradual process - and Kernan really takes it step-by-step....which I appreciated.

I do think the book is worth reading for Emma - but it's not Kernan's best IMHO. I still have a couple in the TBR, but so far OUTLAW BRIDE is my fave.

Rosie: Oh, he's evil! LOL No seriously, I wonder if it has to do with the fact that you've been reading romance a helluva lot longer than I have (Me? A measly 10 years) - and you came at this book from a different place than I did. Although I encourage you to re-skim just for kicks LOL

sybil said...

I forget have you read High Plains Bride yet? Or The Trapper?

I so disliked The Trapper I should read it again and see if I still hates it. IIRC it was very much like Turner's Woman with a TSTL chick and I was just shocked.

But it could have been going something I lurved tons... so whatever was next was gonna blow.

LOL so maybe you will love it *g*

Yes Rosie reread it and tell Wendy Jake isn't THAT bad :)

Wendy said...

Let's see - I still have The Trapper and High Plains Bride in the TBR. I also have an anthology she did with Davidson and St. John - Wed Under Western Skies.


I might have to do another Harlequin-only reading month in the very near future. Maybe December?

sybil said...

hmmm I think I need to reread High Plains Bride and The Trapper with you cuz I rawk like that *g*

Holly said...

I'm a total sucker for a good heroine. Nothing makes a story for me like the heroine can. Like Lori and JenB, I generally end up with the opposite reaction, but there's nothing I love more than a strong heroine who steals the show.

I'm going to add it to the list. Well, bump it up on the list. Sybs made me put it there ages ago. *g*