Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rebel with a Cause by Carol Arens (4 stars, Western)

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  • Cedar County, Nebraska. 1881.

  • Heroine: It becomes clear to the reader almost immediately that the heroine is a true romantic, in the Tom Sawyer definition of the word. She sees misfortunes as grand adventures, finds beauty in the little things, and believes in the magic of life. It's easy to initially view the heroine as an airhead, with her naive views that stem from dime novels and her whimsical choices that could have disastrous outcomes. But as the story unfolds, the heroine's better qualities subtly come to light - the fact that she's eager for her sister to vicariously share in her adventures through writing, for example. Or that she's surprisingly cognizant to the repercussions of her actions, and staunchly sticks to her beliefs. And it's hard not to grin at the heroine's ability to wrap everyone she meets around her finger.
  • Hero: The hero is all the heroine could ask for in a man of the west. He's ruggedly handsome, about as honest as they come, and dependably chivalrous regardless of the inconvenience. He's a bit of a tortured hero, choosing the lonely and deplored life of a bounty hunter as a form of self-inflicted penance for not being after to save his mother's life. However, the hero's shell of unhappiness and cynicism is eventually worn down by the heroine's vibrancy.

  • The heroine and her twin sister have been adventurous hoydens since birth. But after a carriage accident two years ago - one that resulted in her father's death and her sister's paralysis - things haven't been the same. The heroine's mother and older brother have tried to fit the women into the restricted confines of Boston society, and it isn't working. So the heroine runs off to the west, with a brand new journal to capture all of her daily adventures and share them with her sister. Her only companion is a purebred Maltese lapdog named "Muff."
  • The hero stumbles upon the heroine fighting an outlaw in only her shift, as her dress was recently eaten by a cow. He is obligated to rescue her from the impending storm instead of catching the man he's after, and - with that auspicious start - their romance begins. The relationship develops authentically as the protagonists bicker, exasperate, and gradually open up to each other. The hero tries unsuccessfully to set the heroine up in towns and then leave several times, resisting what the heroine already realizes - that their relationship is forever.

What I did like: 
  • The lightheartedness. With a heroine named Missy and a dog named Muff, I knew right away that this wasn't a novel to be taken too seriously. And that was fine with me. Instead, what I found was a very enjoyable story of the old west. The heroine's thoughts and exploits are hilarious from the very first chapter, and the plot action never slows down. 
  • The characterizations. Both the hero and heroine are shown to be well developed characters, even if the hero's reasoning for continuing his job seemed a little unconvincing. What I found particularly enjoyable, however, was the heroine. It was just so much fun reading about the larger-than-life character and her pipsqueak dog.

What I did not like: 
  • The artistic license. While I mostly okay with the author discarding realism in favor of humor and fun, there were still moments when I winced - if this hadn't been fictionland, the heroine's actions could have had terrible consequences.
  • The final conflict and resolution. The main reason I lowered my rating for the novel was the ending. The conflict was particularly disappointing, as the heroine acts completely out of character in order to force some drama between the main characters. And the sudden resolution to aforementioned inane conflict was fairly corny as well.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Carol Arens' Rebel with a Cause. Although the novel has its weaknesses, they can easily be overlooked by the abundant humor, admirable hero, and ridiculously charming heroine. It's a lighthearted western romp I definitely recommend.

*There were a couple of sensual scenes in this novel, but the actual consummation was mostly skipped over.

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