In an effort to read a lot of Silhouette Desire's modern day Westerns and get the feel for them (because I plan on writing one next year), I bought MAVERICK by Joan Hohl, but I didn't read it until last night.
This book is about a woman who hires a bounty hunter to find the low-life scum who raped her sister and raped and murdered her sister's best friend. She offers the bounty hunter one million dollars on one condition - she gets to tag along on the hunt.
I'm sure from there you can figure out that this book is going to become one of those Westerns with the H/h on the trail in the wilderness, however, it's in present day.
First of all, I want to begin this review by saying I liked the book. And if I had to rate it, I'd give it three and a half stars out of five. I couldn't give it five because it wasn't an *excellent* read, and I couldn't give it four because I had a few nit-picks. I would have given it three stars, but I tacked on the half star at the last minute, and I'll tell you why shortly.
The book opens with Brianna hitting up Tanner, our hero and heroine, to find this low-life scum who's so scarred her sister. Right off the bat, I get the feeling this book is one in a series of books and I'm missing the "bigger picture". However, this book CAN and does stand alone, since I have not read any of the previous "Big Bad Wolfe" series by this author, of which this book is a part (the hero's last name is Wolfe, and I must say, Rogan from B*E*A*S*T* OF BURDEN
approves - now in PRINT! lol). Anyhow, so immediately, these two are attracted to each other. They're so dang beautiful, however, that I find myself cringing at times, wishing the hero and heroine weren't romance novel stereotypes. I find myself wanting more angst, more insecurity.
Now, the author does indeed bring up the "lying, cheating scumbag" the heroine used to date in days of yore. And while I prepared myself for the inevitable "I trust no man" attitude from her, it never came. I'm still trying to decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. A lot of reviewers complain about being able to predict a romance novel, and while sometimes predicting one can hinder the books, other times, it can help a book, because you're looking forward to that angst. But it wasn't here.
In fact, this book breaks the "mold" of a Silhouette Desire, at least from the many I've read, in that the hero isn't rich. There is a million dollars on the line he will be *given* by the heroine, but until he gets that money, he ain't no millionaire. And if he IS a millionaire by proxy, meaning, the OTHER books in this series told you so, the author certainly didn't rehash that information in THIS book. Therefore, it left me with a feeling that this author was able to publish the book because she's been with Harlequin forever. If *I* submitted a query and a synopsis of this book to Desire, I wondered if I would have been rejected because the book doesn't follow the formula of "rich hero gets the girl". So in that way, I had to raise an eyebrow at that.
You see, I've been rejected by Desire in the past because my hero wasn't rich. They even said so on the rejection letter. Mind you, the hero GETS rich by the end of the book by becoming a famous singer (PROMISE ME FOREVER
- Champagne Books), and that seems to be the case here. Ms. Hohl's hero also gets rich by the end of the book, and yet, Desire still published it, even though it doesn't fit their new criteria. I'm not bitter, mind, not at all. I'm just left scratching my head at this point.
Moving on, our heroine Brianna tells the hero she can take care of herself, she can hunt, track, ride, because she's been on many hunting trips with her father, even on safari in Africa. I think to myself, okay, I'm going to see billy-bad-ass heroine, right? No, not so much. Brianna turns out to be kind of whiny, and when she does take off for the trail (after the hero "leaves" her at a friend's house to go on alone), she laments that she's saddle sore, and she doesn't even use her tracking skills to track the hero, she relies 100% on the dog that's with her. Not to mention that when she does meet up with the hero again, she complains that she's slowing him down. Even when they're confronted by the Big Bad Guy, she freezes and he almost gets a clear shot to take her down. I wanted some duck and cover, some rolling to the saddlebags to get her pistol and settle things for herself. But no, alas, the hero saves the day.
Now, while I'm not against the hero saving the heroine at all, and I'm not all into the kick-ass heroines who are a hair's breadth away from batting for the other team (if you know what I mean), I did want to see Brianna live up to the standard she set for herself in chapter one. That was disappointing.
Another disappointing aspect of the book was the men's vehemence about a woman's "place". Both the hero, Tanner, and his good friend, Hawk, swore up one side and down the other that a woman had no place on the trail. Too dangerous. Even the argument of woman bounty hunters did nothing to deter their Neanderlithic ways (new word, I made it up). This is why Tanner decides to leave Brianna with Hawk - by spiriting away early in the morning without her knowledge. This is ALSO
why I'm left scratching my head yet again when Hawk so graciously allows Brianna to take off on one of his horses to find Tanner on her own. Oh, now he knows these two are in love, and if she just takes his wolf hound, it's all good. What?!? I felt this change of heart for Hawk was very out of character, and without the author telling us why he allowed Brianna to go off alone after cussing a blue streak to Tanner the night before about a woman on the trail, it just didn't ring true.
Most of this story revolves around the growing love between the hero and heroine, which is actually very sweet. Almost shockingly so. I suppose I've become used to the "hardened" Desire heroes, the ones who seem upset all the time and lash out at the heroine merely because they can't reign in their raging lust. Tanner was different. But again, I'm left wondering if he's a breath of fresh air or just too odd a choice for a Desire book. Brianna never gave him what for, for leaving her back at Hawk's place. Tanner never "tanned her hide" (sorry, couldn't resist) for taking it upon herself to go find him. I mean, he was so dead-set against a woman on the trail at the beginning of the book, I expected some kind of heat from him. And actually, I think that would have heightened the sexual tension between them.
As it stood, they were both aware that they both desired each other, so there really wasn't too much room for "angst" of any kind, because it was just accepted. The characters realized fairly early on that they loved each other, which again, isn't a bad thing, but the so-called "dark moment" near the end of the book seemed forced, as their excuse for staying apart was kind of lame. You live in Pennsylvania and I live in Colorado. Neither of us could possibly move to be with each other! Sure, moving interstate is a PITA, but if you found the one man who can set your blood on fire and steal your heart, wouldn't you be willing to make an exception?
As with all romance novels, there comes the HEA, or Happily Ever After. So at least one of the characters comes to their senses. But I never really felt like I cared about the plot. The bounty hunter/bad guy plot was nothing but window dressing for the romance that was taking place. And while I realize it is a ROMANCE novel, I wanted a little more "meat" to the story than merely falling in love. I never got a sense of danger from the Big Bad, as all I'm told about him came straight from the heroine, of his being a rapist murderer. I can only assume this plot happened in a previous book, because I feel no iota of "Yay, they got the bastard" when the time finally comes. There's really no interaction with the guy other than a few shots fired across a babbling creek. And the only real danger/drama was with the dog.
I kept wanting the author to up the stakes, to make the Big Bad violate the heroine in some way, prompting hero to come to her rescue. I mean, he did, in a way, by keeping her from getting shot. But aside from that, there's nothing. The Big Bad doesn't even get the upper hand by infiltrating the hero's camp while he's distracted by making love to his heroine. Like I said, nothing real meaty in the plot here.
However, if you're looking for something different in a Silhouette Desire, if you want to read a book that you think you can predict but really can't (why would a woman who's been on an African safari begin her hunt with the hero in stiletto heels?), if you want to read a sweeter romance than one that's rough around the edges, then MAVERICK is for you.
And as for that half star I mentioned earlier, it all came down to the very last line of the book. If you read this one, I suggest not spoiling things for yourself by reading the last line first. It came out of left field for me, and actually answered a question I had in my mind in the last scene so perfectly, that I had to control my laughter lest I wake up my DH. Laughter in a good way, since this book is also light-hearted.
Aside from other small things, like too much laughing/chuckling at strange moments, too much coffee drinking (goodness, they'd be on a caffeine rush the entire book), and the high heel thing (perhaps the author meant for the heroine to tease the hero a bit by making him think she's going on a trek in heels? I dunno, but she never explains that part, so I'm stumped), the book is readable, even if at times it comes across as a tad melodramatic.
So, Ms. Hohl, 3 1/2 stars from Becka for MAVERICK.http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0373768273/ref=nosim/speculativefic051-20