So Tough to Tame
There is a lot about So Tough to Tame that really is fresh and unique. There is also a lot about this book that makes a reader cringe. At least it made ME cringe. The result was sort of a mixed bag of potential that fell slightly short of the goal.
Charlie Allington has come home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to lick her wounds. She found out the hard way that being intelligent does not mean you cannot be a victim to another’s perfidy. As a security expert, she was a rising star in a male dominated profession until her boss/boyfriend tried to pin a crime he committed on her. The resultant media exposure took her from darling to anathema in one fell swoop. So when a former high school friend offers her a job at a soon-to-be opened ski resort in Jackson, Charlie jumps at the chance. She soon finds out that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Her new boss seems to be irrationally jealous and intent on sabotaging Charlie’s new job.
Walker Pearce is a cowboy through and through. He has lived in Jackson his entire life and really never allowed himself to hope for more. Walker has a learning disability that made any sort of academics painful. Charlie Allington was his high school tutor and he has fond memories of those teenage years, so when she blows back into town after a decade away, he is not only happy to see her, but attracted to her as well. The fact that she has moved into an apartment across the hall from him is also very convenient for an affair to commence.
What Dahl attempts to do in this this book is turn sexual stereotypes on their head. Charlie is portrayed as sexually liberated while Walker is seen as a body without a brain. The idea is a good one, but one I think falls short of the mark. Charlie continuously describes herself as a “dirty girl.” Over and over again to the brink of ad nauseum. If one is trying to liberate oneself from sexual oppression, describing the activity as “dirty” kind of defeats the purpose.
Dahl is much more successful in her characterization of Walker. His learning disability has defined him and made him willing to accept a life that is more a lesson in survival than any attempt at self-actualization. Women want him for a good time, but not for marriage. His sexual reputation actually works against him in terms of the potential for a permanent, happy relationship. Even rediscovering Charlie does not change this mindset. It doesn’t help when Charlie tries to browbeat him into “bettering himself.” His early years with a father who thought him stupid continue to define and trap him in a hopeless circle of meaningless relationships and jobs. This reader really empathized with Walker, whose situation was heartbreaking. Charlie did grow in character and understanding late in the book, but it was not enough to erase the early chapters that were very close to irritating. She is not without reader sympathy though. She does have her own baggage that contributes to some deep down insecurities.
While the early depiction of Charlie did spoil the enjoyment of this book for me, the latter half of the book worked. Dahl does a good job with setting up the mystery and the deflection she uses to obscure the ultimate villain made the ending less obvious. Different readers have different pet peeves and this book just jangled my nerves at the outset. I was able to overcome it by the middle of the book and enjoy the rest of the story. Dahl is a good writer and this tiny blip on the screen of her work will not deter me from reading everything she writes in the future. So, I would give this book a qualified recommendation for Dahl fans. I would advise new readers to try another one of her books first.