Are you ready for some old-skool romance? Even if it’s a dud populated with characters who are either sociopathic or couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag? Well, Rosanne Bittner’s back, and compared to her more recent offerings, Logan’s Lady is a pretty big disappointment.
In London, nineteen-year-old Lady Elizabeth Baylor and her younger brother, William, are under the guardianship of their older brother, Jonathan. When Jonathan throws William out of the family home because of a scandal, Elizabeth – keen to avoid marriage to the odious suitor chosen for her – proposes they travel to America to make a new start. Envisioning a luxurious trip, William signs a series of promissory bank notes and plans on investing in some western gold mines when they get there. Unfortunately the plan requires Elizabeth and William to pose as husband and wife (ick).
Predictably, their dreams do not work out the way they hoped they would. William is ‘washed overboard’ in the presence of Sir Robert Alexander, a recent friend of his made aboard ship and someone he also trusted to give him advice in making land deals. And while Sir Robert seems charming and caring and helps set up Elizabeth’s travel plans to America – by the time they near New York the widower is ready to propose marriage and indeed begins to pressure her into it. It doesn’t take much longer (though it feels like an ice age on-page) for Elizabeth to realize she’s fallen into the hands of a sociopath who’s signed over the bank notes into his name, sold her mother’s jewels, handed off her money, and plans on selling her into sexual slavery. Oh and he’s also killed his first wife, his unborn child and multiple other sundry people – including William – in an attempt at climbing up the social ladder. During a fight, Elizabeth ends up killing him in self-defense in a train compartment and then lands in a jail cell in Abilene, Kansas.
The world has taken a lot from bounty hunter Logan Best, too. Shooting first and asking questions later, he kills criminals in the name of justice and money – not always in that order – and though he has enough talent to be a US Marshal, he prefers the money that hunting for bounties brings him. Gruff, rude and a little grungy, his life has been the trail ever since he lost his wife and daughter, and he has since spurned all notion of marrying again. Soon he’s on the tracks of…yep, you guessed it, Robert Alexander, who, along with a bunch of equally unpleasant cronies, makes his living by swindling tenderfoots of their gold and land claims.
Logan meets Elizabeth, blood-soaked and in a holding cell, in Abilene, and thanks to what he knows about Robert, he’s happy to defend her against accusations of wanton murder. With her bank notes still floating around out there, and the other members of Robert’s gang seeking to claim them, Logan and Elizabeth team up to take on the gang – but is love also in the cards for them?
I’ve always had a fondness for Rosanne Bittner’s westerns but wow, Logan’s Lady doesn’t cut the mustard at all.
Elizabeth is such a dunce. The dunciest of dunces. She takes note of the flashes of temper in Robert’s casual cruelty and his ridiculous story about her brother’s death, but doesn’t put two and two together until the guy literally villainsplains his motivations to her face. Robert calls her “innocent and trusting” and this is the quality that naturally redeems dirty ol’ Logan, but good God, a newborn baby would be able to tell that Robert is a sociopathic murderer after spending a couple of weeks with him. Even after she shoots him in self-defense after he reveals he was planning on selling her into prostitution, Elizabeth is still crying to herself about what a kind man he was! Her basing her entire knowledge of life around Penny Dreadfuls was utterly ridiculous, and she’s so naive it was embarrassing to read her shrieking antics half the time. Yes, I know the story is about her blossoming into a ‘real woman’ who can boink under the stars and have calloused feet and be brave and all of that, but the road to that spot takes two hundred pages and it’s such a butt-blistering ride.
As for Logan – well, picture him as the Man With No Name from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy. He’s a little more talkative, but the attitude is there. There’s a scene where Logan tells his life story to some prostitutes while having sex with them, which is an amusing burlesque, but he has a surprising soft side and had a truly tragic past (which includes descriptions of violent rape, so be warned). He’d be a fine hero, if not for the stuff I just mentioned, and actually I liked him. Too bad about his placement in this book.
Want to guess how the author inserts tension into the romance? Yep, you guessed it – the hero being a dick to the heroine even after he let her sob on his shoulder the first day they met! Tension is also briefly milled from the cultural clash between them, and they realize they’re in love when she has to cauterize one of his wounds. Oh, and all of this happens over a period of about two weeks. Romantic!
And the novel would be better without lines like – “Generally, white men meant no trouble”. Come on, author, you’re far better than this, and far better than introducing Native characters that do little more than act as shooting targets for our hero.
Pacing is another problem. It takes so, so long for our hero and heroine to meet. So long. Close to a hundred-and-fifty pages of an over three hundred page story, which, with as predictable a path as these two trod, isn’t particularly entertaining, especially when we’re stuck in Elizabeth’s empty, clouded head.
Logan’s Lady was a bitter, bitter disappointment. Perhaps others will find the romance works more for them than it did for me, but I just couldn’t warm up to it.