This was a request- this was Maggie’s first romance, and I got it, and read it, and I think I’m in the midst of finals induced delirium, because this read kind of like a post-modern play.
So the story goes that Emilee is on the run for people thinking she murdered her husband. Cade is both the dead guy’s brother and a bounty hunter AND the supplier of the $2500 price on Emilee’s head (but…wants the kill himself, so…. Why would he post a price on her head? The logic escapes me.)
Anyway, Cade is hunting down Emilee (“you killed my brother, prepare to die” and all that), and has become totally obsessed with the ink drawing of her on the Wanted poster. He finds her in a town in Nebraska where she’s managed to land a job as the schoolteacher, and is about to snipe her, but just can’t pull the trigger. So he tracks her to her house on the edge of civilized Nebraska and busts in and finds out that she’s seven and a half months pregnant.
We’re going to stop here for just a minute. She’s nearly 8 months gone, she’s been keeping it hidden from everyone by being clever with her dress making, and just as a spoiler warning, they end up having rather a lot of acrobatic sex. I don’t have kids, have never been pregnant, so I can’t personally attest to anything, but at least the being able to hide a 7-month belly in 1880s clothes seems…. Dubious.
So Cade breaks into Emilee’s house and at first she thinks he’s there just to rob and terrorize, but then he brings out the whole wanted poster thing, and he’s all mad that she’s pregnant, and she drops the bomb that she was married to Michael, and Cade is really pissed and disbelieving. He forces her to eat, because of the baby, and forces her to go to sleep, because of the baby. He sleeps in the same bed, so she can’t escape without him knowing, and sleeps with his hand on her stomach.
It’s a frustrating read because Cade is SUCH an alpha- he doesn’t believe a word out of her mouth, yells at her for lying, and threatens her to get her to tell the truth. It’s an effective way to get a false confession out of someone- stress them out so much, even without torture, that they’ll tell you anything you want to know. Whether it’s true or not.
The next day he kisses her and she somehow ties him to a chair (I think she swiped his gun or something?) and rides off (yes, she does quite a bit of riding 7 months pregnant, too. Which, assuming these were Western saddles with the horns and all, must have been uncomfortable). He waits a bit, cuts the ropes with the knife he had in his sleeve (he let her escape, see, so she would lead him to… somewhere? I don’t know. It has the advantage –for him- of making her realize she can never escape him, not ever).
So he finds her, and they yell, and they make out, and the yell some more, he says that he wants her to want him (which she does) and to scream out his name and not Michael’s. Then they go to sleep and there is where the now-infamous-in-the-Bitchery handjob scene takes place. She’s dead asleep, and mutters Michael’s name, Cade is furious because she stops before he’s done, and eventually they get it on once everyone is awake.
Alec, an acquaintance of Emilee and Michael’s shows up- both Cade and this guy want a copy of a deed to some land that Emilee swears she doesn’t have (she does, of course, but she didn’t know she had it). Alec saw the naked shenanigans in the woods, and threatens Emilee some more (she gets very tired of the threats).
And then Cade gets bitten by a rattlesnake. Now, as my BFF says, I am not strong in snake. They fucking terrify me. But the thing about being terrified by a thing is it’s best to have an idea of how they tend to act, so you can steer clear of them (and then make sure you live in states that, as a rule, don’t have lots of poisonous snakes. I was once talking in my LJ about my fear of snakes and this ABSOLUTE GIT decided that telling me about all the snakes that live in Massachusetts was a good thing- he was doing me a favor, he said. He has since been banned from commenting, but mostly for being a rape apologist.) (sorry, moving on).
My point is, this snake did not act like any real snake- real rattlesnakes tend to steer clear of humans, and, as a rule, won’t attack something that is too big to be a meal. Like, say, stalking a woman and then JUMPING UP to bite the man ON THE THIGH. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t happen. Anyway, the snake gets killed and Cade’s been bit, so naturally, Emilee must do the whole “sucking the poison out of the wound” thing, and then the bites get infected and he’s very ill, so she has to cauterize the wounds.
Just… go with it. You really don’t have a choice.
They find a cabin that a man and a woman are living in, and convince them (really, him) at gunpoint to let them stay because it never stops raining and Cade is still sick. Cade tells Emilee that his intention is to wait until has the baby, have her hung, and then take the baby. Emilee loses her shit and runs off.
Now, there is a secondary bounty hunter (we’re going to call him Boba Fett) that shows up because we need a plot complication. He finds Emilee and is like “I’mma take you to Montana to get the reward even though Cade has put up the reward and he told me that.” (Hey, you know what- logic is not a strong point for any of these people.) So they are in a stagecoach and she’s making uncomfortable noises and shifting a lot because of an annoying pain in her lower back.
Yeah, so Boba Fett gets a hotel room, and Emilee is feeling off, and Cade finds them, and Emilee’s like, “…I don’t feel so good” and Cade is all concerned (he’s sort of admitted he loves her at this point) and Boba Fett is like “Yeah, she’s in labor, has been for a couple hours now” and Cade is shocked and Emilee is like “WHUT.” And Cade kills Boba Fett and Emilee has the baby and everything is fine.
(Oh right- the whole thing with the deed is resolved by Cade finding this deed he’s been searching for MONTHS and just handing it over to Alec to make him go away. It’s very unsatisfying.)
There’s a particular plot point that I detest- Catherine Coulter does it like, all the damn time, and it shows up here, too- women needing men to mansplain reproduction to them. In (thinks) four Coulter books I can think of off the top of my head, the heroine has fainting spells, her breasts ache a bit and the man explains to her (usually with a smug smirk on his face) that she’s pregnant. In this case, Emilee notices her backache but needs a man to mansplain that she’s in labor. Because until they said so, she had no fucking idea.
Now, again, I have not been pregnant. But a friend of mine was told by her L&D nurse that the point at which she needed to head into the hospital was the moment that a contraction made her say, “Holy shit.” And sure enough, she’d been feeling kind of odd all morning, and then a contraction made her say “Holy shit!” and then she went in and had herself a baby. Emilee never seems to have this “holy shit” moment, and even Cade is like you are endangering your baby by riding off and being alone so close to your time, and Emilee is like, what on earth are you talking about.
Seriously, authors. STOP WRITING YOUR HEROINES AS FUCKING MORONS.
Here is why I said it’s kind of like a post-modern play- for the vast majority of book, there’s only the two of them either in her house, or camping. Every once in a while, someone else will show up, but for the most part, it’s the two of them working through their various angsts. Michael is there as a light presence, and it would have been really interesting if somehow Sinclair could have made Michael as a third character (or even a third and a fourth- Emilee’s version of him and Cade’s version) as a really heavy, unseen, presence. So it feels almost like one of those black box plays that’s just two actors, and they can’t leave, and there are only four other supporting characters that get any stage time (there’s a small handful of background characters that are there to make the world look populated). It’s exactly like Waiting for Godot, except the baby is Godot and he actually shows up. Kind of.
Okay, so maybe it’s not like Waiting for Godot at ALL.
But the character that is omni-present (except during the sexxoring) is the baby. Which makes sense. Emilee is mostly concerned with saving her own skin because of the baby. Cade becomes hyperaware of the baby- its movements, its weight, its presence. To the point that he tells Emilee that he’s going to bring her in for the murder, let her give birth, take the baby and have her hanged. (She, of course, loses her shit at this and things, of course, Get Worse.)
I liked that the story structure was not typical- I feel like Sinclair took some risks with the plot, keeping the number of characters minimal and mostly the story was Emilee and Cade working through their shit. There were a couple points where I wanted to knock their heads together and say “OH MY GOD. Please just talk to each other and communicate already! I feel like we can avoid angst that way.” (Yes, I really do talk back to books if I really feel like they need a talking to.) Cade thinks Emilee is a liar and refuses to believe anything she has to say, and Emilee is just terrified of him, and the sexual attraction is distracting to them both.
The tone of the book is a little odd. Sometimes it seems like one of those books that plays itself utterly straight. There are a lot of italics (though not as bad as Dan Brown is. God I hate his overuse of italics. FOR STARTERS), and a lot of paragraphs followed by a single line for meaningful emphasis. (….not that I know anything about that….). And then sometimes it almost feels like it’s winking at the reader- “Yeah, this isn’t great literature- but isn’t it fun to pretend?”
It’s like I can’t figure out if this book is a hipster, or non-ironic. I was out with a friend drinking beer (as you do) and he is in the Marine Corps Reserves. It was somewhat chilly, and he was wearing a Corps-issued sweater- fatigue green with the padding on the shoulders. And he was talking about how he couldn’t possibly pass for a hipster even as he was talking about music in that world-weary hipster way (Q: How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb? A: It’s a really obscure number- you’ve probably never heard of it). And I said no, he COULD pass for a hipster- he might be wearing that sweater ironically. He got all huffy and was like “I was ISSUED this sweater! I am ENTITLED” and I was like “Yeah, I know that, but other people don’t.” He conceded the point. (And then we got into whether his pants were tight enough to pass as hipster pants, and the answer is no, but he could pull tightpants off if he wanted.) (That sounded way less dirty before I wrote it out. Ahem.)
My point is it can be hard to tell if someone is being ironic or sincere. Take this:
“He drove his fingers through his sleep-tousled hair and released a long, shuddering sigh. Had he ever wanted a woman as much as he wanted this one – right here, right now? No. That alarmed and irritated Cade. He knew he shouldn’t want her- not badly, not at all! There were a thousand good, solid reasons to resist her; having killed Mike was only one.
“That was what Cade’s mind said.
“His body said something else entirely.”
It’s all like that. I really can’t tell if it’s sincere or ironic- every time I think one way, I get my mind changed. And I don’t really know if self-aware irony was a thing in 1992. So…. I have no idea.
It is also possible I’ve been thinking about this too much.
As far as the cover goes, well first, that woman is NOT seven months pregnant. Not in ANY of the views of her we have. And the back cover copy is unsnarkable because it is white text on a yellow background. I have no idea what it said.
So really, as far as WTF-tasticness goes, it was NOTHING on Surrender to the Night, but once you go Texan Viscount, you really have to go above and beyond to top that. I don’t regret the $2 this cost, and I really think this would have been less entertaining if I hadn’t read this in the middle of finals. But I did, and it was a welcome diversion when I was trying to get to sleep. No handjobs, though.