Becka's Babble

Ramblings of a Romance Writer

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Becka's Impromptu Book Review - IRON COWBOY

IRON COWBOY is a Silhouette Desire, written by Diana Palmer. You can find the book on Here is the back cover blurb:

Rancher Jared Cameron was a mystery to everyone in Jacobsville, Texas…and he liked it that way. Only sweet-natured bookseller Sara dared to intrude on his privacy—informing the loner that a book on ogres might be more appropriate for a man of his qualities. Charmed by her audaciousness, Jared seduced the town's plain Jane. But their burgeoning relationship soon thrust Sara into Jared's hidden world of intrigue.

Now the iron cowboy had to steel himself for the fight of his life…and his heart.


Let's be honest, I bought this book for it's cover. It's gorgeous, really, and promises to be a wonderful western read from Silhouette Desire. Being written by Diana Palmer, who's had a successful career in romance, half the cover is taken up by her name. I've read another Desire book by Ms. Palmer with the same malady, HEARTBREAKER, of which I reviewed on my Google Group, The Magic of Romance, not on my blog, unfortunately. In fact, a quick search of "Diana Palmer" shows a trend in her covers, of GIANT author name, itty bitty book title. With a cred like Ms. Palmer's, where her name alone will get you to buy her book, I've just gotta see for myself if she can live up to her publisher's hype.

First of all, as I also said in my review of HEARTBREAKER on my loop, this book's cover has NOTHING to do with the story within. The hero is mentioned more times as being an oil tycoon than a rancher, even though he owns a ranch, for all intents and purposes. Unfortunately, we never see him on the back of a horse wrangling wild horses. In fact, I'm not even sure why the book is entitled IRON COWBOY, because aside from his Stetson, there ain't nothing "cowboy" about this guy. He calls the small town both he and the heroine live in, which is Jacobsville, TX, "Outer Cowpasture", as if he's making fun of the place. This seems rather odd for a "cowboy", as true cowboys love the wide-open range. I'm sure there are plenty of city-cowboys, but even those men, who's passion in life is on the back of a horse, love to get away from all the hustle and bustle for a cozy campfire and the bay of coyotes.

Therefore, both the cover and the title are misleading, right off the bat.

Secondly, the book appears to be one in a series, and admittedly, I have not read this series. It revisits plenty of other characters from Ms. Palmer's previous books, but I skimmed this information, because it wasn't interesting to me. In fact, in reading one such scene, it seemed to be "filler", to get the book to the appropriate 50K word count for the line. These characters were thrown at me as if I should know who they are, and even the explanations of "this is so-in-so who did such-in-such" were murky at best. Hence the skimming. To tell you the truth, skimming those scenes didn't hurt the story one bit. I still understood everything going on between the hero and heroine.

The love story between the two main characters seemed forced at times. In fact, the hero is so busy, the heroine spends more time "on camera" with the secondary characters, Tony the Dancer and Harley Fowler. I had to wonder to myself why the heroine wasn't falling in love with Harley, because he was obviously a cowboy and a nice one to boot (no pun intended), and he actually LIKED the heroine, unlike the hero. Of course, conflict between the H/h is an unwritten rule in Ms. Palmer's books. If done correctly, the sparks that fly could seriously up the ante with regards to sexual tension. However, Ms. Palmer writes their butting heads as she would two enemies, people who genuinely hate each other. This makes for the tender scenes between them to seem contrived. Why would two people who were just hurling nasty words back and forth suddenly agree to be each other's "family" if one of them gets sick? It made no sense to me.

Let's not even talk about the forced love scene. Well... maybe we should. Many reviewers on call it a "rape" scene. The hero loses so much control, he doesn't "notice" when the heroine is pushing him off, thus he goes all the way, and only notices her tears and shoving after his Big O. Then, he proceeds to tell her it's all her fault.

"Small town girls and their damned hang-ups," he muttered. "What now? Do you think you'll go to hell for sleeping with a man you haven't married?"

It was close to what she'd been taught all her life, that she didn't even bother to reply.

"I don't believe this!" he raged. "I can't be the first man to--" He stopped dead, remembering the barrier that he'd dealth with. "I was the first," he said slowly. "Wasn't I, Sara?"

"Please go," she pleaded tearfully.

He drew in a long breath. "Tell me you're on birth control," he demanded.

"I never needed to be," she bit off.

"Great!" he burst out, furious. "That's just great! And you see me as a meal ticket, don't you? If I made you pregnant, you'll have a free ride for life! Except you won't," he added coldly. "I don't want children ever again. You'll have a termination or I'll take you to court and show everyone who lives here how mercenary you are!"

Wow. The problem with writing such a harsh hero is the fact that there is next to no redeeming values about him. The HEA of this book seems more about the hero getting his way than something Sara truly wants. Therefore the ending isn't satisfying. I don't believe the hero and heroine are truly in love. He seems possessive, domineering, controlling. There's a fine line to writing an Alpha hero. I usually love a possessive hero in books. But when the Alpha male comes off as a selfish bastard, I just can't bring myself to like the guy.

Aside from the romance, there is another plot throughout about a drug cartel trying to kidnap the hero for his millions. I skimmed this plot too. I just couldn't read it. Partly because it, too, seemed like "filler" to up the word count, but really, I couldn't read it because it was more and more pages where the hero and heroine were NOT together. And that's really the crux of why this romance didn't work for me. Sure, the whole forced seduction/rape scene seriously turned me way the heck off, but you cannot have a successful romance when the H/h are never together.

However, one of the main reasons I skimmed both the drug cartel plot and the revisiting of previous characters was the style of writing. Ms. Palmer does a lot of telling in her writing rather than showing. One thing happens, something else happens, which makes something else happen. It was like reading an instruction manual, almost, not because I was learning anything, but because the writing and prose were so dry. You do this. Then this and this. Here's an example:

Could she possibly have an ulcer?

It would pass, she told herself. She'd just sit very still and not move around and it would go away, like it always did.

But it didn't go away. An hour later, it hurt to walk and nausea washed over her unexpectedly. She barely made it to the bathroom in time to lose her breakfast. The pain was horrible. She'd never felt anything like it. She felt feverish as well. Something was wrong. Something bad.

A.) Nausea
B.) Barely made it to bathroom
C.) Pain horrible
D.) Never felt anything like it
E.) Feverish
F.) Something's wrong
G.) Something bad

The problem is, the entire book is like the above passage. It reads like a novel from a first time author, not a multi-published been-around-the-block author. Take a look at the very FIRST line of the book. It pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the book:

It was a lovely spring day, the sort of day that makes gentle, green, budding trees and white blossoms look like a spring fantasy has been painted.

It's just...unpolished. We're told what it looks like. Put us in the scene. Show us what's going on, don't tell us. Is there a light breeze? A fragrance in the air? Are there puffy clouds in the sky? The above sentence is the only "set up" we get for what the day is like. While I don't need a 10-page diagram detailing every little nuance of the lovely spring day, I would like to picture my scene a wee bit more.

Sure, as authors, we sometimes write books that aren't that great. Not every book we write is going to be the "book of our hearts". This is a business, after all. However, I can't help but wonder if the editors at Desire relax the rules for well-known authors. If "Jane Author" submitted a manuscript with elementary prose and a rape scene, it's doubtful she'd get that coveted contract.

Overall, the cover and title are poor representations of the book, even if the cover is gorgeous. The story within is shoestring at best, with a luke-warm romance and forgettable drug cartel. The prose of the writing is very basic and hard to read at times, as the author in me is cringing at the "she felt" / "that was" wording, which permeated the book.

THE BEST line in the entire book came out of the blue for me. If Ms. Palmer had written her book around that ONE line, it would have been a much better read. The hero actually melted me with that one line, but then goes on to prove himself all kinds of an ass. I found myself wishing and hoping Ms. Palmer would have her romance live up to that ONE line, but alas, she didn't. Here it is, to quench your curiosity:

He felt her shiver in his arms. His mouth roughened for an instant until he realized that she was just out of the hospital, and her side hadn't healed. He lifted his head. His eyes were blazing. His face was set, solemn, his gaze intent on her flushed skin.

"Wh...why?" she faltered, all eyes.

An odd expression crept over his face. "When you smile, the emptiness goes away," he said in a rough whisper.

This book gets one star out of a possible 5 from Becka. It would have only gotten a half-star from me, but that one line bumped it to a full star. Only read this one if you're a die-hard Palmer fan who loves her asinine heroes.



At 10:46 AM , Blogger Rosie said...

I used to read her books compulsively. Then just one day (years ago now) I couldn't read them any more. Done. Just done. I do see them in the bookstore and begin to reach for one and then make myself pull back. I'm glad for your review because it reassures me I'm making the right decision. :-)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home