Do You Take This Enemy? falls into the “annoyingly bad” category. There is no believable conflict in this story, so the characters must behave in a shrill, obnoxious fashion just to try and keep some level of tension going. Well, actually, the hero is a pretty decent guy, but the heroine is tiresome enough for both.
Gabe Brant has come to the Ryder ranch with a business proposition. He offers to marry Ashley Ryder, a marriage of convenience to expand their ranches and end the decades-old feud between the Brants and the Ryders over water rights. Widower Gabe will get a mother for his little boy, and seven-months-pregnant Ashley will get a father for her unborn baby.
Ashley Ryder is tall with striking black hair and blue eyes that shoot fire, etc. She also has a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas. Marry a Brant? Her character can pretty much be summed up by their first conversation:
I think this is the first time in my life I’ve ever talked to a Brant and I don’t particularly like it.”
“You don’t know me,” he reminded her.
“I don’t have to know you. You’re a Brant. That’s enough,” she retorted.
No Ryder ever talks to a Brant. All Brants are badbadBAD, a viewpoint held by not only Ashley, but her father and her uncles as well. As for trying to settle this fifty-year feud, why bother? Everyone knows the Ryders hate the Brants and they always will.
There you have it - all the conflict in this story. Ashley hates Gabe because he’s a Brant. She eventually agrees to marry him, and they lust and yearn for each other, she has her baby, names it after his dead wife in a move that completely escapes logic, and just when it looks like this story is over, Ashley throws a hissy fit over something Gabe has done and decides he’s a no-good scum-sucking toad without even talking to him about it. Why bother? After all, he’s a Brant! And all Brants are no-good liars and cheats, blah, blah.
Gabe, kindhearted single father that he is, isn’t enough to remotely save this story. He might be portrayed as a good guy, but he also has the poor sense to fall for Ashley, and that knocked him off any kind of pedestal right there. Since she has the personality of a dyspeptic porcupine, it reduces their relationship to the most basic level of “she’s a good-looking babe”. If they ever had a true meeting of the minds, I can only hope he’d run like hell.
As for Ashley, it would be hard to come up with amore annoying heroine, though given the worn-out constraints of this story, making Ashley into a high-handed witch is about all that can be done with her. The old “family feud” scenario just doesn’t play well, not that it ever did. It reduces the characters to fools who’d rather nurse their age-old grudges than act like adults, and what’s the least bit interesting about that?
Do You Take This Enemy? is the first of a three-book series called “Stallion Pass”. Based on this story, I won’t be returning.