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It Happened One Night

Lady Reckless by Leslie LaFoy
(Bantam, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-57747-6
Time-travel romances used to awe me. I remember reading Diana Gabaldon's masterpiece, Outlander, in three days while I was nursing a newborn. It was just the thing to make chronic sleep deprivation a gratifying experience.

But these days, with the market glutted with time-travel stories, many seem to have a ho-hum quality to them. Case in point Leslie LaFoy's Lady Reckless. When contemporary cowgirl Glynis Muldoon rides off a Kansas prairie into 1832 Ireland, her reaction is oddly blasé. Actually, she seems more annoyed than wowed. Rather than evince much wonder about her extraordinary circumstances, Glynis just wants to hurry back to her ranch and her duties. In my opinion, this book would be more aptly titled Lady Responsible.

Likewise, the Irish rebels Glynis falls in with aren't terribly awestruck by a 20th century woman either. They already have one! It turns out the hero's mother, the heroine of LaFoy's previous book, is an accountant from Colorado. They already know all about football. So if everyone concerned is so very non-nonplussed about time-travel, at what is the reader left to marvel?

When Glynis pops up in Ireland, riding her Appaloosa cowpony Bert, she unwittingly emerges into a fracas between British redcoats and Irish rebels. After Glynis is shot by the Brits, hero Carrick des Marceaux rescues her, and together they escape into the night. Carrick, a.k.a. the Dragon, is a sort of Irish Robin Hood, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, and generally fighting the power. Glynis quickly sympathizes with the Irish cause; and though wounded, she uses her rifle and well-trained Bert to good effect, killing redcoats and saving Carrick's life.

Carrick takes Glynis to his sister's estate, where she heals from her wound. Saraid, Carrick's sister, is actually the bumbling sorceress who brought Glynis through time. But of course, she can't figure out how to send her back. They must await the arrival of their mother, Lady Alanna, seer, mage, and accountant, to come and put things to rights.

Meanwhile, Carrick and Glynis feel a growing attraction for each other. But Carrick pushes her away from him, believing that together they have no future. Glynis learns that when he was a child, Carrick's death was foretold by a magical gem called the Dragon's Heart. Carrick grew up accepting this grim prophecy, allowing it to take over his entire life. Glynis, practical sort that she is, won't accept the dubious predictions of fortune-telling rocks. She determines to rescue Carrick from the Brits, and himself.

In reading a time-travel romance, I need to feel some of the magic and wonder associated with the genre; but I felt little magic reading Lady Reckless. Since Glynis is such a matter-of-fact character, who doesn't seem to experience time-traveling as anything but an unforeseen interruption of her schedule, I didn't either. The magical element of the Dragon's Heart also didn't work; since Glynis pooh-poohed it, I pooh-poohed it as well. Therefore, Carrick's determined fatalism seemed a flimsy romantic obstacle. I didn't fret a moment if he was going to last 'til the HEA.

If magic and wonder were lacking in Lady Reckless, so too was reality. The setting of 19th century Ireland left me utterly unconvinced. The author conveys almost nothing about the culture and landscape of Ireland itself. Sure, Carrick is engaged in a war against the cruel tithe laws. But what about...RELIGION? And what about the Crown's suppression of the native Irish language? LaFoy assumes that everyone speaks English, and even so, Glynis never has any trouble communicating. A few years ago when I was backpacking through Ireland, it was still hard at times for an American to understand a thick Irish accent. None of LaFoy's characters have any accent at all, and seem so American, they'd fit right in at a tail-gate picnic.

Furthermore, LaFoy doesn't have a clue about the Irish climate. For example, Carrick goes for a refreshing swim in the lough in April. I was in Ireland in April, and I had to wear thermal underwear and Thinsulite everything to keep from freezing my ass off. When Glynis and Carrick began rolling around the grass shedding their clothes, I was forced – forced, mind you, to snicker disdainfully.

Moreover, Lady Reckless is hindered by LaFoy's unfortunate prose style, which is overflowing with cliches, hackneyed language, and turns-of-phrases. Lady Reckless would have greatly benefited from meticulous editing. LaFoy's dialogue, which suffered from bloated tag-lines, was also a problem. Every character in the book sounded exactly alike, speaking in a stilted, long-winded style, reminding me of Frasier and Niles Crane doing a guest appearance on The Young and The Restless.

As for the romance, it never quite came alive, because Carrick never came alive. He struck me as more of a collection of characteristics than a character. I liked Glynis better-she might be a stolid, unimaginative sort, but she's a divergence from the current spate of wacky damsels. And Glynis does know horses. LaFoy is very good indeed when writing about horses, something I can't say about too many authors. In fact, Glynis' horse Bert was my favorite character in the entire book.

Lady Reckless is a book with major problems, and I cannot recommend it. But even so, I felt that the author shows promising qualities. The book trots along at a strong pace, and the action scenes are impressive. If LaFoy addresses some points of technique, does more background research, and digs deeper while developing characters, someday she may very well write a book that awes everyone, myself included.

--Meredith Moore

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