An Unlikely Outlaw
To me, an enjoyable read has an interesting plot, characters I can root for, and if I’m lucky, it’s set in a fascinating time and place. An Unlikely Outlaw had two out of three, but when the character I couldn’t root for was the heroine, it became what I call a “what could have been” read.
Jasmine Jamison wants to be an outlaw, live her own life, and do as she pleases, but after her latest silly joke, her fed-up father, Lee, issues the would-be bandit an ultimatum: Get married in the next thirty days, or be shipped off to a proper “ladies school” in the East. Horrified by the thought of some dainty finishing school, Jasmine comes up with a plan to keep her freedom: Find herself a husband, all right, but a drifter who will desert her as soon as the vows are said.
While Jasmine is running out of time, mysterious newcomer Brody McClintock is flirting with widow Lisbeth Morisette. “Perfect,” she thinks. Forging a note from Lisbeth to Brody and placing a forged note from Brody in her bedroom for her father to find, Jasmine arranges a midnight meeting with the man who can save her. When Lee finds Brody and Jasmine in a compromising position, Brody is stunned at realizing that the woman he’s been cavorting with isn’t Lisbeth, and Jasmine is nearly giddy with joy when a furious Lee takes them to the reverend and marries them off in the middle of the night.
Jasmine soon learns that Brody is no common drifter, but is instead, a law-abiding Texas Ranger, a man who will honor his vows and the marriage, no matter how they came about. First, though, Jasmine learns that all that she’s gained through her schemes is her father’s angerand her new husband’s wrath at the way he’s been trapped.
Freedom was Jasmine’s goal, however, and she intends to have it. Leaving Brody behind, she joins up with a band of outlaws, only to find rules she must obey and danger she never imagined. Later, as she and Brody make their way to McClintock land for his brother’s wedding, Jasmine learns more about the husband who won’t easily bend to her will, although the secrets they both are hiding threaten not only their budding relationship but Jasmine’s father as well.
Jasmine is alternately described as “woman” and “girl,” which suited her perfectly because I would never have taken her for a woman of twenty-four, considering her behavior. She is impetuous, sulking, and incompetent beyond belief in almost every area of her life. I found this a little strange, since she’s been without a mother most of her life. I would have expected her to learn to do something. Her view of outlaw life is seriously warped, considering she spent years on the trail with her father’s band, so her naiveté is not that easy to believe.
And Brody? Poor Brody. I kept hoping that Jasmine would mature at some point, but I never got the feeling I was dealing with two equals here. His anger at Jasmine’s treachery is overshadowed by the tormented sense of honor he feels since the death of his parents – for which he blames himself. Even though Jasmine doesn’t deserve it, Brody keeps his word and behaves admirably toward his wife. He is nothing like the man Jasmine had imagined, nothing like the cad who would abandon her. He really deserved better than to be the one reason I liked this book.
The rest of the characters are broadly sketched; out of all of them, Tom the helpful cowboy was the most interesting of the lot. But by the time Jasmine gets mad at both her husband and her best friend after they prevented her from getting raped, I lost most of what passes for patience with me. Why Brody stuck around, I don’t know. Although there was some promise is Ms. Wade’s debut book, the author squandered it. If you are a fan of historical western romance, try something else instead.