Jackson Rule by Dinah McCall (AKA Sharon Sala)
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harpercollins, 1996, in print and available in digital
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR: Lots of online readers I "know" have gushed over this book, so when it was reprinted some years back I picked up a copy - brand spankin' new thankyouverymuch.
Danger, danger, thar be spoilers ahoy mateys!
The Review: A criticism I sometimes see for contemporary romance is that it doesn't operate in anything resembling "our reality." That's exactly what I thought of while reading this book. The title is taken from the hero's name, and I suspect I'm supposed to be won over by his sheer hottie-hotness. The fact that he has long hair and rides a Harley is somehow supposed to make up for the fact that the story takes place in La La Fantasy Land. But more on that in a minute....
Andrew Jackson Rule was sent to prison at 16 for killing his abusive a-hole father. Oh, and yes - he did it. He confessed to it even. His time served, he's now a free man - although he's discovering life on the outside isn't very welcoming. After being dismissed everywhere, he lands a job at Rebecca Hill's nursery (as in greenhouses, plants and such). He met Rebecca some days earlier, after he fixed her broken down truck. A preacher's daughter, Rebecca is constantly thwarting Daddy's attempts to marry her off, and she hires Jackson on the spot - even though she knows he's an ex-con who did time for murder. You see, our girl took those Bible lessons about redemption and "judge not" to heart - much to her father's horror that his baby girl has hired a killer.
Oh boy, where to begin. First off, it's hard to take a book seriously when our ex-con hero just leaves prison without so much as a by-your-leave. Apparently in New Orleans ex-cons don't need to worry about silly things like parole officers and/or halfway houses ::headdesk::.
Then there's Rebecca who is so goody-goody that she doesn't bat an eye when hiring Jackson. Or sure, he fixed her truck and saved her from walking out into traffic (don't ask) - but he's very upfront about the whole Went To Prison For Murdering My Daddy thing. Now ladies, if someone told you something like this - what would you do? Maybe it's the librarian in me, but I'd be off to the search the Internet to dig up the dirt. Granted, let's give Rebecca the benefit of the doubt - this was 1996. Maybe she doesn't have a home computer hooked up to AOL or Compuserve. Still, she lives in New-frickin'-Orleans! The thought doesn't cross her tiny pea brain to head to the public library and search back issues of the newspaper(s) on microfilm? I mean, really sweetheart? Really?!?!?! It's like the brain-dead heroine in historical romances who doesn't read the letter that would explain everything - and instead hangs on to it, unopened, until the final chapter when she finally does read it and she learns that the hero really didn't abandon her pregnant and penniless but was instead shanghaied.
Seriously, who doesn't open the letter?!??!?!?!
Uh, sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah....
Things move along at a decent clip, with Jackson and Rebecca finally succumbing to their attraction. Then we get into Big Secret conflict. The Big Secret Jackson is keeping from Rebecca? He has a sister in a mental hospital. Of course this really shouldn't have been a Big Secret because Jackson keeps having nightmares about his sister covered in their Daddy's blood. Which means she was there when Jackson killed their father. What, the cops didn't mention that in their police report? And since Jackson confessed, I'm to believe no reporter/journalist let that bit of news leak for public consumption? Of course since Rebecca lacks any curiosity or survival instincts whatsoever - we already know she didn't go to the local library.
Further developments include Jackson turning into a Poetry Spouting Care Bear once he gets laid (sadly, not a virgin hero since he got rid of that pesky nuisance at age 15...) and somehow managing to get a volunteer job at a homeless shelter working with at-risk kids. Seriously, I know these organizations are hard-up for help - but an ex-con who admits to killing his father? Really?!?!? That just smacks of a lawsuit waiting to happen, even back in 1996.
The final straw for me was with the ending when the author takes the one unique element to this story, back-tracks on it, and undoes it all. OK, yeah - I saw it coming a mile away (blame it on too many mystery novels and Law & Order episodes), but it was still disappointing to see the one unique element of this story completely unraveled for the sake of making the happy ending more palpable. \start spoiler Because you know, we can't have the ex-con hero actually be guilty of the crime he did time for. Never mind that much is made over the fact that Dead Daddy is a raging, colossal, abusive dill-hole. Killing in self-defense might turn some readers off, so let's neuter the hero by having him take the fall, plus rescue every secondary character that comes on the scene from certain doom, all while morphing into a Poetry Spouting Care Bear. /end spoiler
Sorry folks, I partly get it on the whole Wounded Hero level - but that's really about it for me. There just wasn't enough on the page here to make me look past all the problems I had. However, the writing does flow and I read this story at a fairly good clip. If you can look past the complete and total lack of reality, this isn't necessarily a "bad" read. After all, Jackson does have long hair and rides a Harley.
Final Grade = D+