I was browsing the Romance section of Half Price Books recently, looking for some good pirate fiction (I wish I knew how to quit you, romance novels). I found a few, but what really caught my eye was a Nora Roberts western. The blurb began: “Half Apache and all man.” OH REALLY? Later I giggled about to my friend Bee who said she recognized the phrase – and wait, wasn’t that novel among the bunch she’d mailed to me? I rushed home to check and she was right. Nora Roberts’ Half Apache All Man hero was already living on my bookshelf.
Let’s begin, shall we?
So the little lady in question is Sarah, who grew up at a convent school in Philly but came west to join her father at his grand estate and gold mine, only he died right before she got there and it turns out there is no estate, just a little shack, and the mine is pretty sad too. HALF APACHE ALL MAN Jake (who is actually only a quarter Apache, but…romance math, oh Nora!) is a drifter slash gunfighter slash cowpuncher slash grumpy gus slash INEXPLICABLY DRAWN to our girl Sarah. So drawn, in fact, that he goes to a brothel and he doesn’t even want to have sex with the whores! TRUE LOVE! Sarah, meanwhile, won’t leave and is living in her dad’s little hut and can’t do anything for herself but Jake is prowling around keeping an eye on her so it’s cool. Except he wasn’t keeping an eye on her when someone set her rickety barn on fire and almost killed her/the horses. Good job, Jake. There’s also a dude in town who Sarah immediately picks out as a True Gentleman, making my bad-guy-o-meter zip up to 11. He probably is behind setting her barn on fire because blah blah blah gold mine blah blah blah hates Jake blah blah blah greedy blah blah. Whatever.
Sarah is totally gorgeous and helpless and hot and so Jake teaches her how to shoot. And they kiss and it’s like an EXPLOSION of attraction, wow. And their relationship continues in the vein of, I’m so hot for you!, I’m not hot for you right now., Now I’m hot for you!, Now I’m not!, Am!, Not!, Am!, Not!, and so on and so on, blah blah blah, forever and ever I’m sure. Meanwhile Sarah is building a little business of making dresses for all the ladies in town and Jake is being broody and his former hooker sex partner is acting like a raging asshole to poor sweet Sarah. And then Sarah gets kidnapped by Indians! And Jake has to fight one to the death WITH KNIVES to get her back! Which he does. And then they kiss again, and again it’s awesome, and again there’s an immediate and stupid “I like you so much that I have to distance myself from you,” fallout. Yawnfest.
Of course they don’t see much of each other for a bit after he rescued her because their feelings are just SO unbearable (gag me), and then the local drunk that she hired to build stuff (and that Jake also hired to check out her gold mine…that’s not a euphemism, I mean her actual gold mine) tells her about how he used to have an Apache wife and how Jake’s family was murdered when he was 13 or 14 and it changed him (no really?). And then one of the prostitutes shows up to ask her to make some dresses and Sarah makes a big show of treating her like a human being, but still refuses to make dresses for icky whores. And then she thinks about how hard the life of a whore must be because everyone treats them like crap, but she doesn’t put it together that “everyone” includes her because she just refused their business on the basis of…their business. So awesome job, Sarah. Later Jake shows up and she’s not home so he reads her diary (she thinks he has beautiful hands…UH HUH HANDS YEAH RIGHT) and then the drunk guy reveals that she’s actually out on a date with the Proper Gentleman slash Obviously Evil Dude.
And he asks her to MARRY him! Not Jake, haha of course not, he’s way out of touch with his feelings. The PG/OED, I mean! And she’s like, uhhhh thanks, and please don’t touch me? And he’s like, you don’t have to answer right now! I WILL WAIT FOR YOU! (He wants her goldmine. And that is both not a euphemism and also a big honkin’ euphemism.) Then she goes home and Jake shows up and then follows the best conversation ever had by two romance novel characters:
Sarah: You’re hot for me, I’m hot for you, what’s the issue?
Jake: I’m no good for you! I’m rootless!
Sarah: You’re being a big baby.
Jake: I can’t be tied down! I’m afraid of feelings!
Sarah: If you were any kind of man, we’d be having sex right now.
Jake: … Uh…well…ooookay…
AND THEN THEY DO. And they continue to for, like, ever. Amazing.
But then a Bad Guy shows up (he works for the PG/OED, of course) and he tries to take Sarah hostage, but Jake kills him instead. And then one of the whores from town shows up – see, the madam is, like, totally in love with Jake and his being with Sarah throws her into a rage so she severely, horrifically beats the whore who came out to ask Sarah to make the dresses (which she refused to make – remember, they’re whores and all). So Sarah takes care of the beaten whore who shows up, Alice, and then she goes back to town and has a HUGE BRAWL with the madam. For real – they roll around on the floor and punch each other and pull hair out and all that. It’s crazy and violent. Good work, Nora!
Then a bunch of other stuff happens and Sarah gets KIDNAPPED AGAIN. Ugh, this girl! Jake rallies the town, because everyone loves Sarah, and they go to get her back and in the process Jake gets shot. But she also gets saved. And then Jake finally admits that he’s goo-goo face in love with her and Sarah’s like, “Oh, good! Because I’m pregnant!”
Romance is fun again – woohoo! Thank goodness. I was in a bad place for awhile but now I’m out. Nora Roberts and her Half Apache All Man hero and her straight-talking-punch-throwing prissy miss healed me. Thanks, gang!
No more Judith McNaught for me. Ever.