The One That Made Me Cry (With Laughter)
There are a few things you need to know before you start reading a Diana Palmer novel:
There is a 95% chance biscuits will be involved.
Women’s rights are a nebulous, easily dismissed issue.
Any slang in the book will come straight out of the 70s, along with most clothing styles, despite the fact that the books are meant to be contemporary romances.
The hero will be at least 12 years older than the heroine, who is more often than not between 18 and 23 years old.
The heroine has an 85% chance of getting pregnant the first time they do it, and will know she is pregnant in minutes (due to an aversion to the smell of bacon).
IRON COWBOY (Silhouette Desire #1856, 2008) has all the hallmarks of a typical Diana Palmer romance and more. MUCH MORE. As such, think of this more as a MST3K of the book, rather than a true review. In other words, I will be breaking it down for you, and this entire post is a big old spoiler alert. Please don’t let that get in the way of buying and reading it for yourselves, because DAMN, you guys. This is genius. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, on with the show.
1. Our heroine is Sara Dobbs, a 19 year old, innocent assistant manager of a bookstore in Jacobsville, TX, population less than 2000. (As we have seen through many previous books, for every one regular citizen in Jacobsville there are 5 mercenaries, 7 ranchers, and 10 drug dealers.)
2. On page 2 of the book we find out Sara has a sad past. Her parents did dangerous work abroad. (This is left deliberately vague at this point, but the implication is missionary work.) Her dad died violently, Sara and her mother move back home to her grandfather’s house in Jacobsville, and her mother becomes an alcoholic slut as a result of the tragedy. WOE. After being beat up by the children of her mother’s most recent lover, Sara runs home battered and bruised and her mother, riddled with guilt, vows to turn over a new leaf. But then a few days later…Sara quits thinking about it and we don’t find out what happened. If you’re wondering why this back story is dumped onto page 2, I AM TOO.
3. Our hero is the mysterious Jared Cameron. He recently rolled into town and bought the White Horse Ranch lock, stock, and barrel. Jared shows up at the bookstore and berates Sara for the lack of hardcovers and financial magazines. Then he tells her he likes mystery novels, biographies, first person adventure novels, and “anything factual on the North African campaign of World War II”. All righty then.
4. Jared orders books and wants them delivered and bitches about the time that will take. Jared, there is something called Amazon.com. Look it up. Sara meanwhile wants to charge him a $10 delivery fee for having to drive 6 miles out of town. Way to encourage repeat customers, Sara.
5. After the books come in, Sara talks to Tony the Dancer (Jared’s bodyguard. I KNOW. SO WEIRD.) and arranges a delivery time. “The voice had a decidedly Southern accent. Not a Texas one, a Georgia one, if she were guessing. She had an ear for accents. Her Grandfather had taught students from all over the country and around the world at Jacobsville Community College, and he often brought them home.” ORLY? A town population less than 2,000 would be able to not only sustain a community college, but would attract people from all over the country and the world?
6. As I mentioned earlier, Jacobsville is a hotbed of drug dealing activity. Despite the fact that there have been multiple shootouts wherein the drug dealers ALWAYS lose, and despite the fact that there’s a bunch of former military, mercenary, and law enforcement ranchers living in and around the town, they keep coming back and trying to set up new meth labs and shit. Drug dealers aren’t very smart.
7. You know who else isn’t smart? Sara. She is a single woman, living alone, and doesn’t own a cell phone. Nice.
8. Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that Sara has conservative morals, goes to church, and doesn’t “give out” on dates. I bet that prissy bitch doesn’t “put out”, either.
9. A few weeks later, having gone on a date with another man (hussy!), Sara stumbles across Jared at the local cemetery. The funeral he went to in Jacobsville 8 months prior was his daughter’s. Sad. He decided to bury her there because his grandfather lived in Jacobsville.
10. Chit-chat at the cemetery leads to Jared and Sara agreeing to be each other’s family and take care of each other when they’re sick. I don’t even know. What I do know is that this is some mighty big foreshadowing!
11. Sure enough, less than a week later Sara almost dies of a perforated appendix. Of course, since it ruptured, she had to have old-school, cut you wide open surgery, instead of the much easier to recover form laparoscopic option. Foreshadowing, part two.
12. Jared whisks Sara back to his ranch to recuperate, amongst heated sexual tension and mysterious talk of enemies closing in. But no worries! Sara will be kept completely in the dark and should be in no danger, right?
13. Upon arrival at Jared’s ranch, Sara meets Max, Jared’s supremely unprofessional, super seductive looking female attorney. Max is pissed and jealous of Sara, naturally.
14. A few days later, Sara is back at home and back at work. Still a bit sore, she attends a local barbeque in the company of Harley, a cowboy at a local ranch. Jared is there with – oh noes! – Max. DRAMA.
15. There seems to be some confusion about Sara’s incision. On Sara’s part, sadly. After first getting out of the hospital, she remarks that it’s a 6 inch incision. Now, at the barbeque, she says its 4 inches. That’s…a pretty big difference.
16. Holy cow. Max done lost her mind. Sara laughs at something and Max, believing herself to be laughed at, hauls off and slaps Sara right across her laughing mouf. I’m pretty sure that behavior is unacceptable anywhere, and at any time. Other than in soap operas. And yet Max is astonished when she is kicked off the property.
17. You know what else people in Jacobsville can do? DANCE. Is a mutha-effing dance-off, y’all! The Caldwell’s are doing a spirited Paso Doble, but then the Grier’s challenge them to a Tango. I’m totally not kidding here, guys. In a previous book there was a dance battle to the Macarena. THE MACARENA. Only 10 years after the fad came and went too. That’s practically current, by Palmer’s standards!
18. Jared returns from taking Max home, sweeps Sara off her feet, and then takes her home. He bluntly tells her he’s too old for just kisses, and that if she doesn’t want more she should tell him now and he’ll leave and end it tonight. Poor dumb Sara. Her internal thought process goes something like this: “I should tell him to leave, but he’s super hot. I’m a good girl! But he’s sooo dreamy. Surely he doesn’t want to have sex? He just wants some heavy petting. Yeah, that’s all he wants. And really, if it gets out of hand, I’ll just tell him to stop!” Poor poor Sara.
19. Sure enough, she is pretty much date raped on the couch. She loves the heavy petting and foreplay, but when shit gets real, she wants no part of it. Too bad a semi-drunk Jared doesn’t get the picture. When he comes out of his orgasm coma, he realizes Sara is not having fun. His reaction is not to soothe and reassure her of course, it’s to bitterly complain about small town girls and their repressed attitudes. Of course, once he figures out she vas a virgin he’s totally kind and gentle and understanding, right? HELLS NO. He is all “but you’re on birth controls, right? RIGHT? No? FUCK. I suppose you want all my monies now, hoor! But the joke is on you! I don’t want any more children, so you’ll either abort this hypothetical child, or I will sue you so the whole world can see you for what you are!!!!11!!1!!” (Sue her for what, I wonder? Not aborting her child? CLASSY.)
20. After this awesome reaction, Jared halfheartedly hopes he didn’t hurt her, and Sara retires to her room in a fit of well-earned catatonia.
21. Oh Sara. She is gazing at the fallen woman in her bedroom mirror. Unlike most Palmer heroines, she does know there’s such a thing as a “morning after pill” but her reasoning for not using it is that she would have to see a local doctor for it and that then the whole town would know about it. HONEY. Doctor-patient confidentiality. Look it up.
22. Jared, wracked with pseudo-guilt, gets blitzed the next day at his ranch. Max the whorish attorney didn’t leave as ordered, and instead is lying in wait. Catching Jared at a vulnerable moment, she convinces him that Sara was the aggressor and deliberately set out to seduce him. Jared agrees to let Max handle things, with a feeble “don’t hurt her”. This is some telenovela shit, this is.
23. Bright and early Monday, Max shows up at the bookstore with a check for 10,000 dollars and a crazy story. Seems as though Jared has been hiding out in Jacobsville because three “illegal aliens” from South America have come up to kidnap him and hold him for ransom. Seems that Jared is an oil magnate who foiled a group of terrorists that targeted his South American oil pipeline. The survivors are determined to kidnap him even though he no longer owns that pipeline? Because that way they’ll recoup some monies? I don’t even know. Long story short: BAD GUYS IS COMIN’! Only not really, because according to Max, they were apprehended outside Virginia that very day.
24. After more cutting words Max seems to realize that Sara may not have had a fantastic time with Jared. She finds out her true age and is like OMGWTFBBQ!!1! and backtracks like mad. You know you’ve been a dick when the no-good, aggressive, she-demon realizes you’ve crossed the line. Way to go, Jared.
25. Jared finds out the truth and feels awful. About time. Tony finds out the truth and hates Jared. Go Tony! Max turns out to be mega-dumb as apparently she inadvertently gave away her boss’s location and information to terrorists going by the super-obvious terrorist name “the Reconquistas”. Good thing they were apprehended…OR WERE THEY?
26. The next morning, Sara shows up at the bookstore and notices a beat up van in the parking lot. Her boss Dee is leaving to go to the bank and pick up some coffee, and they remark upon the van as she heads out. Shortly after she leaves, THREE STRANGE MEN walk into the bookstore. Shits about to get real, y’all.
27. They are tall and swarthy and muscular! She knows what the people in Jacobsville look like, these men is dark and foreign looking! They must be terrorists! (Apparently no Hispanics live in this tiny Texas town near the border?) And holy craps, she is too far from the phone (only they haven’t made a move toward her yet). And she only has the pocket knife she uses to cut open boxes with as defense! WHAT IS SHE GON’ DO?
28. And then. Guys. Seriously. Now comes the part in the book that literally made me cry with laughter. I mean, to the point that I stopped reading, called a few friends, and practically pissed myself laughing as I tried to adequately explain what happened. SRSLY. Sara realizes she only has one shot. And HOLY CRAP is it a long shot. And here is where I quote verbatim from the book:
“If she stabbed herself with the pocketknife and they could see blood, and she pretended to be unconscious and tried to look dead, they might be startled into leaving.”
I KNOW I WOULD BE STARTLED INTO LEAVING.
So let’s just recap for a second. Sara sees three strange swarthy (aka dark skinned furriners) men walk into the bookstore. She immediately thinks “terrorists!” even though they have yet to make any threatening move toward her. Too far from a phone (I guess? Now that I am rereading, she makes no mention of the phone as an option before she comes to this awesome plan of action) she decides her only chance is to STAB HER OWN FOOLISH ASS and play dead. Even better! She figured that since she knows where her appendicitis incision is, she will stab herself there since there probably isn’t anything vital nearby. Except maybe your freaking KIDNEY.
29. Then we get this:
“You come with us,” one of the men said in accented English. “We see you with the lawyer. You are Cameron’s woman. He will pay for you.”
“I am nobody’s woman. I will die before I go with you!” she said. And giving up a silent prayer, she jabbed the pocketknife into the incision, through her blouse. “Ooooh!” she cried, because it did hurt.
She crumpled to the floor with blood on her hands and shirt. She sighed heavily and held her breath. She looked dead.
The men hesitated. They’d planned well, and now their hostage had committed suicide right in front of them!
30. Let’s recap. She jabbed herself with a POCKETKNIFE. Which probably had, what? A 2 to 3 inch blade, tops? Into her SIDE. She squeaks out a little “oooh!” and collapses and the freaking terrorists believe she’s dead? Also “they’d planned well”? ORLY? They decided to confront her in an open bookstore during business hours on a main street with passing traffic? Instead of following her home and nabbing her at night? And yet this is an example of master planning? No wonder they’ve been so successful. BRILLIANT.
31. Lucky for her, Harley shows up wearing a side-arm he uses to shoot rattlers on the ranch. The no-doubt incredibly confused terrorists make a run for it. To her credit, Sara admits to Harley that she stabbed herself, and to his credit, Harley is super confused by that. The chief of police comes by the hospital later to tell her that the three “Arabic” prisoners who were apprehended in Virginia escaped the day before, and were presumed to be the same guys who menaced her. The chief, upon hearing of her improvised stabbing, SMILES AT HER WITH RESPECT. WITH RESPECT. Ahahahaha!
32. The three kidnappers are caught, and Tony the Dancer comes to see her in the hospital. He offers to care for her while she’s recovering from her latest injury, and when she asks what Jared will think he tells her he is quitting now that the terrorists have been caught. Rightly assuming she’s the cause of the problems between Tony & Jared, Sara flushes. The doctor sees the flush, immediately assumes she has been sexxoring Jared, and asks to speak to her privately.
“You don’t have to say it. I read faces very well. What do you want to do?”
She started to deny it. She knew better. (Dr.) Coltrain was a force of nature. “I can’t kill an ant,” she said.
So is she pregnant? WHO KNOWS. All we know is that she can’t kill ants!
33. Tony chooses this moment to reveal that he was there when Sara was almost killed in Africa as a child. He was an American mercenary in the firefight that killed her father and gave her a traumatic brain injury. Okay. Thanks for letting us know, Tony!
34. Tony takes Sara home where they talk about his tragic past, Jared and his bone-headedness, and the future. Sara gets a phone call – the children’s book she’s been working on (off stage, of course) has been accepted by Mirabella publishing! She’s gonna be an author, y’all! And she gets paid and everything!
35. Then Jared shows up and the truth is out. Sara was only 10 when a grenade blast killed her daddy and scrambled her brains. She still has a piece in there! That’s why she has trouble color matching and remembering some things! WOE. WOOOOOOE! Jared feels like a dick.
36. A lot of boring stuff happens, and long story short, Tony is going to jail to get in with the kidnappers so when they’re released on bail they will be caught in the act of kidnapping. Jared is staying with Sara and they’re talking about this potentially one week old zygote like it is the real deal. Everyone loves a babby, right? RIGHT!
37. Oh! Also. In addition to being an oil tycoon, Jared used to be a securities expert, and prior to that was a cop in San Antonio, and before THAT he was in the Special Forces. Just how old is this fool, anyway?
38. Everything goes pretty much according to plan, the kidnappers are facing real charges now, and Jared asks Sara to marry him. There’s just one problem. She is afraid of sex now! Yup, Jared was soooo good last time that he gave the poor girl a phobia. Cue Barry White music and a slow, gentle lovemaking session.
39. Wonder of wonders, after a quickie wedding and a discussion of soccer (yeah, I don’t even know WTF brought that on), Sara tells Jared that she received her monthly visitor so there’s no baby as of yet. Jared tells her they will wait to start a family and will instead explore the world and find her a bookstore to own. MARRY ME, JARED!
I guess the moral of the story is, when a woman is feeling menaced she should forget about screaming for help, and should instead stab her appendix with the nearest sharp object. (Diana Palmer, Smart Bitches, Harlequin and their parent companies are not responsible for any of the said injuries should you indeed stab yourself.)
(SB Sarah adds: Thanks a LOT, Nonnie. Now I have “Hold me closer, Tony Dancer,” stuck in my head. Great.)