Dangerous by Millie Criswell
(Warner, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-446-60415-1
I would classify Dangerous, the second of Millie Criswell's trilogy, as a "Road Western". The action moves from place to place as the lead characters attempt to track down a wanted man. Ultimately, this premise spells doom for the story. It quickly loses its focus and is finally reduced to wandering all over the place looking for the elusive denouement.

Texas Ranger Ethan Bodine is trying to locate his brother Rafe before Rafe is captured by someone wanting to collect the bounty on his head. Rafe has supposedly killed a man. Ethan is shocked to find out that he has competition from Wilhelmina Granville, a horticulturist who needs money to save her elderly aunts' home. The five-hundred dollar reward for Rafe is too tempting to pass up, so Willy has decided to become a bounty hunter.

Ethan quickly tracks down Willy before she can do something stupid, like shoot his brother. Little does he realize that Willy has plenty more stupid things up her sleeve.

My negative reaction to this book is based largely on my dislike of the stock "incompetent heroine who runs around getting into trouble while loudly declaring that she can take care of herself". The idea of a female horticulturist becoming a bounty hunter and taking off alone across the West was enough of a stretch. Unfortunately, readers are treated to scene after scene of Willy doing something childish, impulsive, or downright foolhardy. To wit:

Willy spies four desperadoes beating up Ethan. Even though she has a loaded gun in her pocket, she attacks the bad guys with an umbrella, poking them in the stomach.

Willy is next saved from a rape at the hands of said desperadoes by Ethan. She declares that she can handle her own problems and take care of herself. Yeah, right.

Willy decides she doesn't want Ethan to touch her. Then she decides she loves him and wants to go to bed with him. They have hot sex. They argue. She throws his clothes out of a hotel window into the rain, then blames herself for her childish prank.

Willy runs off on her own several times, even though she has already demonstrated she needs a keeper.

Ethan is little better. He's a cardboard hero at best, one who was betrayed by a cheatin' woman and has decided that all women are liars. When he finds out that Willy isn't a virgin, he hurls some truly despicable accusations at her head (leading to the abovementioned argument) and then chastises himself for messing up a good thing.

Meanwhile, the plot is "new place, new problem" every chapter or so. Ethan and Willy wander into a town where the women aren't speaking to the men. They spend a chapter or so fixing that situation and end up at a town dance. (Hey, aren't we supposed to be chasing Rafe here?) Finally remembering their purpose, they trail Rafe to Denver, where Willy gets a job as a waitress and mucks that up, too. They get chased by a mob of Mormons in Utah Territory. They trail Rafe to Boston. Every ghost in both their closets is conveniently living in Boston, too, leading to an extremely contrived denouement.

The author tries hard to redeem these two and give the reader some reason to care about them, but I'm afraid it just didn't work for me. My overall reaction was irritation, with the result that it took me more than two weeks to read Dangerous.

I guess that says it all, right there. For a better demonstration of Millie Criswell's talents, find her previous trilogy.

--Cathy Sova

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