The only thing that kept this book from getting an F was Austin Brand. Although the author did not intend him to be the hero, to me he was. As for the heroine, Suzette – no sir, I didn’t like her, not one little bit!
Wayward Lady begins when Suzette Foxworth is having her sixteenth birthday party. During the party she accepts the proposal of Luke Barnes, a strapping young cowboy. A few days later, Luke is savagely killed by the Kiowa Indians. Suzette covers the trial for the local newspaper and is filled with hatred when the Indians get life in prison instead of the death penalty.
Things really go downhill for Suzette. Her father and mother both die, leaving Suzette with very little money. For a time, Suzette works for the local newspaper but eventually marries a wealthy older man, Austin Brand, who had been a long time friend of her family and who has lost his own family to Indian raids. He is handsome, rich, and very kind and he loves Suzette dearly. Suzette marries Austin for security and companionship, not for love, although she admires and likes him very much.
For a time, Austin and Suzette are very happy. He spoils her rotten and gives her every little thing her heart desires. Ryan goes overboard in this section of the book describing the clothes, jewels, parties, houses, food, furnishings etc. that Austin lavishes on Suzette. The only fly in the ointment is that Austin is very afraid for Suzette’s safety and will not allow her to travel by herself. Of course being the spunky little spitfire that she is, Suzette sneaks out a time or two and is always insulted or accosted when she does. Finally she is kidnaped by the nominal hero of the the book – Kaytano.
Kaytano is a half-breed bandit. He is a Robin Hood type who robs banks and wagon trains and shares his largesse with the poor, although he does alright too, as the description of his hacienda shows. He treats Suzette with aloofness at first, but pretty soon passion flares and they are having lots and lots of sex everywhere you can imagine. It’s a boink-fest worthy of Dara Joy at her most creative.
Kaytano hates Austin for reasons that are understandable, and Austin certainly behaved reprehensibly in the past. I don’t want to give away too much here, but I felt that Austin has repented and suffered for what he did years ago and does not deserve what Suzette and Kaytano do to him.
The attraction between Suzette and Kaytano is lust, pure and simple. It is not a case of a woman running from a bad husband or intolerable situation. Austin is good and kind and loves Suzette. His one flaw was is overprotectiveness and judging from what happens to Suzette whenever she goes out alone, I would say he is justified.
I’ll leave you with Suzette’s own thoughts about her and Austin and Kaytano:
“What had Austin ever been to her but the kindest, most caring, loving husband a woman could have? And what had she given him in return? From the beginning she’d never returned his love. She’d taken all he had to give – his love, his money, his name, and she’d never returned anything to him. She’d been a faithful wife, but even when he made love to her she’d never once felt the way she did when Kaytano loved her”.
Lady, I hope your conscience bothers you for a very long time!