My Angel by Christine Young
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6643-0
**
When closing the cover of My Angel, my lasting impression was confusion. The plot seemed to meander everywhere and left more questions than answers. The book read as if it had been heavily edited, with no concern for continuity.

Attempting to condense the plot into a summary that makes any kind of sense is nearly impossible. Iíve re-written this synopsis a dozen times in an attempt to make it understandable, but without much success. So please bear with me.

Itís Denver, 1893 and our heroine, Angela Chamberlain, is traveling to the East Coast to enroll in finishing school. Angela is not the finishing school type. An expert horsewoman whoís skilled with a knife and a gun, she longs for a life of adventure and romance. Now if only she can convince her father that finishing school is not the right choice for her.

Devil Blackmoor seems the perfect man to provide a little adventure and romance. The handsome stranger is a gun for hire and is also rumored to be a Russian prince. This is where things began to get a bit confusing. Itís as if there are two different books here: one concerning Devil the hired gun, the second concerning Alexi Popov (Devilís real name), Russian prince. The two never really mesh.

Devil has been hired to find Emma and Dakota Barringer, who are wanted for murder. Dakota is like a brother to Angela, so she follows Devil in order to intercept the couple before he can bring them in. Things go wrong and Devil and Angela are thrown together in a bordello.

Alexi (Devil) is captivated by Angela at first sight. Since she is a commoner, he could never marry her. But she would make an ideal mistress. Perhaps she would be willing to travel back to Russia with him? Angela readily agrees to the adventure, but demands to be his wife, not his mistress. Especially since she was a virgin before their relationship began.

Alexi doesnít believe her claims of virginity. He saw her in the bordello and believes her to be a prostitute. Angela is angry that Alexi wonít trust her word and refuses to tell him she is the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man, who will move heaven and earth to get her back. Besides, the big dolt wonít believe anything she says, anyway.

The action moves to Russia and Angela is beginning to see her desire for adventure might have been a big mistake. Especially after she meets Alexiís fiancťe Feodora, one of the most evil ďother womenĒ Iíve ever encountered. Itís up to Alexi to realize that Angela is exactly what she claims, but by the time he figures it out, itís nearly too late.

The Russian portion of the book was the most riveting, once Angela and Alexi are separated. That's not a good thing in a romance. Angela really matured as a character when she was forced to face the evil Feodora alone. I never believed Alexi to be worthy of her after that point.

My Angel relies heavily on misunderstandings, a plot line which, when handled inexpertly, makes me cringe. Characters suddenly disappear whenever they are no longer necessary and scenes end awkwardly, a distraction that pulled me from the story. Although Angela matures into a heroine I could truly admire, she is mired in a clumsy plot that is difficult to recommend.

-- Karen Lynch


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