Ok, I judged this book by it’s cover, and unfortunately it lived up to my expectations. The front cover is a clinch, which I can deal with, but on the back is this Wild West stampede picture that I’ve always associated with Wild Bill Hickock dime novels. It’s truly horrible. Not to mention the completely inaccurate pencil drawings found every few pages. The story line can be summed up in this way: Reed, Mark and John want Libby, Kathleen believes Reed belongs to her, Lyle is sleeping with Kathleen, and Ann wanted Steve, who was married to Kathleen. Got it? The location and time frame of the book are unclear, it is set in various western locations sometime after Native Americans were moved to reservations.
After discovering that her fiancé John, wanted to sell her to another man because she is a virgin, Liberty (Libby) Jones escapes to track down her brother Michael, the only man she will ever feel safe with again. Michael has gone to work for the railroad and his whereabouts are unknown. Libby, who can handle horses, knives and guns (except when it truly matters for her safety) stumbles upon the wild west show, Stampede. Low on funds, Libby decides her skills might be useful to the show. She is determined to be hired and locates the owner of the show, Reed Weston, to demonstrate her talents.
Reed Weston has just inherited Stampede after his brother Steve’s untimely, and suspicious death. Reed is determined to find his brother’s killer and his number one suspect is Kathleen, his brother’s slimy wife. Kathleen has always wanted Reed for herself, and believes he belongs to her. Libby Jones approaches Reed in a saloon and asks him to hire her on. Not needing any other complications, especially a beautiful woman, Reed refuses. Libby responds with this highly intelligent line, “But I’m good-real good. Let me show you have good I am!” And proceeds to shoot a hole through the ace in the ace of hearts with her six shooter. Reed is impressed, but still refuses to hire her. (The picture depicting this scene is hysterical, as Libby is holding a shotgun at her side to shoot the card.)
Joe, Reed’s second in command, feels sorry for Libby and realizes her skills might be useful for the Stampede. He tells Libby to disguise herself as a boy and stay out of Reed’s way. Libby interprets this advice by hiding her hair underneath a cowboy hat, and wearing baggy clothing. But alas, this disguise lasts all of one day, as she demonstrates how to stop a rampaging team of horses during a show, and, oops, loses her hat.
Every cliché possible was used in this novel, and it was hard to decide whether the author intended the book as a mystery, suspense, romance or western story. There were accidents, murders, storms, jealousy, an evil villain who wanted the heroine, an evil woman who wanted the hero, a wild west show, and a dime novel included in the story.
The characters were cardboard cutouts. Libby had all these fabulous skills that conveniently failed when her life was in danger, causing Reed to appear out of nowhere every time she needed rescuing. I never recognized any true emotion in any of these people. The book also focused heavily on Kathleen’s machinations to get Reed into bed. However, she had to have a guy on the side at the same time, which resulted in as much sex between the villains as the hero and heroine. The murder story is ridiculous, and the killer, who never showed any previous signs of insanity, suddenly exhibits insane behavior after being revealed.
There were so many problems with this book that this review cannot even touch on all of them. Had I not been assigned this book, and therefore had to finish it, I would have tried out my wild west target practicing skills on it after the first 20 pages.