Brit’s Lady by Kit Dee
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80693-2
***
Recently I’ve read a number of romances where the author focused attention on the plot and let the romance slide. Brit’s Lady, sequel to Destiny’s Warrior, is definitely not one of those books. Here the romance is front and center, but the plot is all over the place.

Callista Regina Warwick, a journalist with an esteemed Washington, D.C., newspaper, is traveling with her mother to Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory, in 1883 to join her father, Marsden Warwick the Fourth, who has recently been assigned the command of the fort. Their small party is attacked by Apaches, and the situation looks grim. The lieutenant leading their escort promises to save two bullets for Callista and her mother.

The sudden appearance of a single rider, a revolver in each hand and reins between his teeth, routs the murderous Apache band and saves the day. Our hero (Callista refers to him that way) Britton Chance is a former cavalry lieutenant and Chief of Scouts. He and Callista strike sparks immediately. Rather than return to his ranch, Brit accompanies the group to the fort where he learns that he has been recalled to active duty. Brit’s recall to active duty has been prearranged by General Crook. Under the guise of his position of Chief of Scouts, he is investigating the sale of rifles to the Indians. Chief among his suspects is Callista’s father.

Col. Warwick, who has spent much of his career in Washington, has political ambitions. Assisting him in his ambitions is a powerful senator. To Callista’s distress, the senator’s son, Lieutenant Fowler Stanhope, is also at Ft. Bowie. Fowler nearly raped Callista once, and he hasn’t shed his slimy ways. He asks her father for Callista’s hand in marriage, who without consulting his daughter grants his permission. Callista is determined not to wed the despicable Fowler but fears that by refusing him her father’s political future will be jeopardized.

Callista and Brit are increasingly attracted to each other, but the announcement of her engagement to Fowler convinces him that she is just another faithless, conniving female. For a woman whose profession depends on her facility with words, she is amazingly incoherent in her explanation of why she is engaged to a man she claims to dislike. But there will be plenty of opportunities for the two to further their relationship as they are thrown together repeatedly by Indian attacks, flash floods, and countless other incidents.

Callista is constantly slipping out of the house or out of the fort. Fowler warns her that he expects her to act with more discretion when she is his wife. (Hiss boo.) Since Fowler has absolutely no redeeming qualities, I guess we’re supposed to be incensed that he would express his intention to exercise a little control over his spirited wife. The number of life-threatening crises she confronts, however, would lead me to question why Callista’s not exercising a little more control on her own. The famed Pauline scarcely had more perils than Callista. Only “our heroine” could survive so many.

Brit is a very stereotypical character -- Callista nails it when she refers to him as “our hero”. (One amusing scene in the book is when Brit discovers he is receiving marriage proposals from Callista’s readers based on her articles featuring “our hero.”) Every romance reader has run into his type before. Born to a prostitute, he grew up in a brothel and joined the Army where his bravery on the field of battle resulted in his appointment to West Point. Yes, he absolutely reeks with nobility of character and trustworthiness as opposed to the smarmy Fowler who is despicable through and through. Of course, he appreciates Callista’s independent nature and strong character. Admired by men, desired by women -- yup, that Brit’s a winner.

By the way, there a couple of subplots that are neatly -- far too neatly -- tied up at the end.

If you’re looking for a western romance with more than just a little old time melodrama flavor, you might be interested in Brit’s Lady. As for me, I found myself thinking “oh, no, not again!” too often to recommend it.

--Lesley Dunlap


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