The Countess Misbehaves

Duchess For a Day

Naughty Marietta

The Princess Goes West

The Scandalous Miss Howard

The Seduction of Ellen

 
The Sheriff by Nan Ryan
(Mira, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-7783-2272-6
*
Nan Ryan’s latest book reminds me a lot of the western romances I read and enjoyed as a teenage girl. However, I have since grown up, and simply telling me a story doesn’t cut it anymore.

Kate VanNam (not Kate Quinn as the back cover copy suggests), has just gotten word that a great-aunt she didn’t know has died and named her as sole beneficiary in her will. When the elderly uncle who raised her dies, Kate takes what meager savings he had left and boards a ship for Fortune, California. Her auntie not only left her a gold mine, but also a majestic Victorian mansion.

However when she arrives, Kate discovers that her gold mine is reportedly worthless and the Victorian is uninhabitable. No matter, she is sure with a little hard work that she’ll find gold and make her fortune! Too bad the insufferable town sheriff keeps getting in her way.

Travis McCloud (not Travis McLoud as the back cover copy suggests), sees trouble the minute he sees Kate. The men outnumber the women in Fortune 50 to 1. Worse still, Kate is a lady. The kind of lady that the rough-hewn miners will kill each other over just for a wink and a smile. No doubt about it, he’s going to have to protect her for her own good.

Readers looking for a romance are going to find something on par to the novels published back in 1985. Kate and Travis do not spend any time together, and when they do, they bicker. Their “courtship” consists of arguing, her seeing him with no shirt on, arguing, him spying her skinny-dipping in a mountain lake and more arguing. Then they end up in bed together and all of the sudden it’s true love. They can’t live without each other!

This lack of courtship and romance might be able to be overlooked if there were actual character development to distract the reader. Travis remains an enigma, spending the bulk of the story either bedding his mistress or being annoyed that he’s attracted to Kate. When the author does decide to reveal a nugget from his past, she dashes it off in a paragraph. Not a paragraph where Travis is talking to Kate, a mere descriptive paragraph where the author is telling instead of showing. In fact, the entire book is riddled with this sort of lazy writing. Instead of unfolding the romance and story before the reader’s eyes, the author just tells it.

Kate has one nice moment in the story where she saves a Chinese man from being beaten by ruffians, but other than that, this girl was obviously dropped on her head a few times as an infant. When she discovers the Victorian has no windows or doors, she decides to make the front parlor her living space. She tidies up that room and lives in it. It never occurs to her that she might want to replace the doors or windows. It never occurs to her that she might want to be able to lock up now that she’s living in a male-dominated town full of desperate, uncouth, and horny miners. No, it’s up to Travis to board up her windows, and replace her doors (coincidently this is when she sees him with no shirt on). He even has to order her to keep the doors locked at all times. Frankly, people this stupid deserve whatever happens to them – but Travis has some perverse desire to protect Kate and the reader is forced to suffer along.

There is nothing to motivate the reader to care. Kate is a dingbat with a blind optimism that smacks of stupidity. Travis wouldn’t be bad if the author spent time actually exploring his previous life in Virginia instead of relaying it. Even the villains are bland, and naturally, Kate doesn’t realize she’s in danger because the villain is so darn charming and nice. Even the climactic finish lacks an actual climax, and the whole thing is over in four sentences. There are several spicy love scenes, but given that the reader doesn’t know, care much, and isn't privy to any sort of courtship, it’s hard to care about them, let alone read them without skimming. Lazy characterization with an equally lazy “telling” writing style make The Sheriff a tedious read. Pass it on by.

--Wendy Crutcher


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