The Bad Luck Wedding Cake

The Bad Luck Wedding Night

Give Him the Slip

Her Scoundrel

The Kissing Stars

My Long, Tall Texas Heartthrob

The Pink Magnolia Club

Sizzle All Day
The Wedding Raffle

The Wedding Raffle

The Wedding Ransom

Her Outlaw by Geralyn Dawson
(HQN, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-373-77196-7
Her Outlaw concludes Geralyn Dawson's Bad Luck Brides trilogy, featuring three sisters. Each owns a necklace that plays a role in their collective mission to put an end to their family's misfortune in love. Readers who enjoyed the earlier volumes will be pleased to find more of the same. Newcomers should consider beginning with books one and two of the series.

Emma McBride is the oldest of the McBride Menaces. She lost her first love shortly after their wedding and has been living as a serious, upright and uptight widow ever since. She is now in London to accompany her grieving sister Kat and decides it is finally time to rediscover the fun-loving mischief-maker she once was. When a good-looking charmer dares her to pin a donkey's tale on an Oxford Street mannequin, she gleefully accepts and happily pulls off the prank. The mysterious joker doesn't stick around to share the prize.

Several days later Emma meets Alisdair "Dair" McRae again when she accompanies Kat on a far-fetched scheme to retrieve a missing emerald necklace. Kat is soon entangled in her own romantic quest (her story is told in Her Scoundrel), and Emma seizes the moment with Dair. She is happy to be offered a new lease of life until she begins to suspect that the good-looking rogue is keeping secrets.

Emma isn't wrong. Dair has been recently diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Before he dies, he wants to ensure that the orphanage where he grew up has a good director and all the financial backing it needs. Although he is as taken by Emma as she is with him, he wants to spare her further tragedy. His good intentions come to nothing, and they find themselves hunting for a missing treasure, whose location is tied to her ruby necklace. When the latter is stolen and she is accused of murder, the two go on the run. Their trip across fin-de-siècle England, Scotland and Texas gives them ample time to reveal their secrets and sort out their problems.

I have read all three books in this series (and several of those on other generations of McBrides), and I didn't have any problems making sense of this one. I suspect this wouldn't be the case for all readers. While the books have a lot to recommend them, they don't stand entirely on their own. There are too many in-jokes and too many references to other mis-adventures, including Kat's romance which is so clearly intertwined with Emma's.

Seasoned Dawson readers like myself are likely to be bothered by a different set of problems. The characters and their stories are too familiar. We've encountered the same likeable rogues and mischievous women once too often. Dawson does a great job with these characters, but she doesn't seem able to do much else. This isn't bad in itself (there is a lot of comfort to be found in familiarity and repetition), but the endless reruns make it difficult to keep track of the different stories.

Both old-time readers and novices are likely to be irritated with the contrived adventure plot, Dair's convoluted backstory and the cardboard villain. The romance and the characters make-up for these shortcomings. Emma and Dair have a frank and joyful approach to sex and life, which is a refreshing change from cowering heroines and tortured heroes. They have had more than their share of personal tragedies. These have left their scars (Dair's response to his medical condition is especially touching), but they haven't been completely immobilizing. If and when Emma and Dair go down, it will be laughing all the way.

The McBride saga may be over, but this is probably not the last we will see of these notorious Menaces. Dair has three childhood buddies, all Dawson-heroes in the making. With her talent and her experience, Dawson should have no problem rustling up another naughty young lady to keep them in line. And voilà! a new story – and series – is born.

--Mary Benn

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