Before starting I should come clean and say that I have an enormous affection for Geralyn Dawson’s books. The Bad Luck Wedding Cake was one of the first romance novels I read and I’ve enjoyed checking up on the McBride family featured in so many of her books ever since. That being said, while I enjoyed the characters in Her Outlaw, the story itself did not hold water.
Alasdair MacRae is definitely an outlaw. A master jewel thief known throughout Britain as the Highland Reiver, he has in the past been known to try his hand at a spot of bank robbery as well. His antics have grown quite serious as he desperately tries to wrap up his complicated affairs in the face of a deadly illness. MacRae feels responsible for the wards of the Piney Woods Children’s Home back in Texas and is on his way to meet with a potential director for the orphanage when he stops to flirt with a beautiful stranger.
Texan Emma McBride Tate is visiting London with her sister Kat, who is grieving for her recently deceased daughter. Emma is also burdened by grief. At the age of twenty she lost her young and much loved husband to pneumonia. In the intervening decade, she has mostly lived for other people, caring for her family, and teaching at a school. She longs for the excitement of her misspent youth, when she and her sisters were known as the McBride Menaces. One day while window shopping alone in London, a handsome stranger strikes up a conversation. The man bets her an ice cream that she will be unable to pin a tail on the donkey-like form of a mannequin with an unusually large bustle. Emma wins her ice cream and Dair goes on his way, having enjoyed the brief fliration with a random woman, but not expecting anything to come of it.
Alas, from this highly amusing first encounter, the plot quickly turns in several incomprehensible directions. While back in Texas, Dair’s friend Jake stole a magical emerald pendant from Kat. Magical emerald pendant, you ask? Apparently the three McBride sisters (there is one left back home in Texas) received three mysterious necklaces from a mysterious lady in their wayward youth. This same mysterious lady insisted that these pendants and the associated legend hold the key to breaking the notorious line of Bad Luck that plagues the McBride family. Returning back to the plot, it seems that Jake has advertised for suitable women to present themselves, as he is in need of a wife to mother the nieces and nephews who fell to his care after his sister’s death. Kat plans to disguise herself as a chaperone and present Emma as a candidate so that they can travel to Jake’s estate and steal back the necklace. But Emma is shocked to walk into the interview with Jake and see her flirt from the ice cream adventure.
Confused yet? We’re only forty pages into the book. The problem here is that Her Outlaw is the conclusion of a tightly knit trilogy of books about the McBride Menaces. Apparently, in the previous book Kat and Jake hooked up with much fanfare and Emma and Dair quickly disappeared from the action. This book fills in what happens once Emma and Dair went off by themselves. But Dawson does a poor job of making Kat and Jake’s plot twists accessible to readers who have not already read Her Scoundrel, which was their story. And even more unfortunate is that the plots of the two romances are remarkably similar. Jake stole Kat’s necklace…and Dair soon makes off with Emma’s. Jake needs a wife to care for his newly acquired wards, and Dair needs a director of an orphanage back in Texas. It was hard to determine which scoundrel, jewel, and set of children belonged to which heroine.
Can you tell that this book is over the top? The jewel thief hero with a mysterious childhood and a deadly illness and the heroine with the magical necklace and the fairy prince’s curse and the orphanage back in Texas and the lurking bad guy, when taken together, were just too much for me to swallow.
In the past I’ve enjoyed the way Dawson combined Texan characters, crazy adventures, and a dash of magic to craft lighthearted and romantic romps. However, this book’s unfortunate position as the last in an elaborate trilogy left it feeling crammed with plot, heavy in confusion, but light on character development. Which is a shame, really, because Emma and Dair are charming leads with a fun and sensual relationship.