Heartbreaker, by Linda Howard

>> Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Heartbreaker, by Linda Howard, is related to Diamond Bay, though the only link between them is that John, the hero of Heartbreaker was a very minor character in DB, and at one point in his book he gives a passing thought to the protagonists of the other one. Not much of a relationship!

Michelle Cabot has inherited her father's Florida cattle ranch -- and a mountain of debt. To make matters worse, a huge chunk of that debt is owed to the neighboring rancher, her nemesis John Rafferty.

Nothing shocks Rafferty more than discovering that the spoiled, pampered rich girl he once despised is painstakingly trying to run the Cabot ranch herself, working the land with desperation the only thing she has left. He likes this new Michelle and decides to make her his woman. What he doesn't know is that underneath Michelle's cool, polished façade lies heartache, secrets and the raw determination to live life as her own woman. But Rafferty isn't about to take no for an answer.
Though this one is actually ok compared to some old Linda Howard series books, that's not really such a big compliment! It's pretty dated, and the hero and heroine weren't particularly likeable. It did improve a bit near the end, so I'm giving it a D+.

As I said, the characters were simply not to my taste. John's was a neanderthal, in the sense that his actions were more fitting to someone living in the prehistory than to a supposedly modern man. The first scene in which he's with Michelle was enough to make me want to kill him, when he offered Michelle to forgive her her dad's debt to him if she'll become his mistress. Nice going, very respectful. I just hate men who are so arrogant that they think they have the right to judge, condemn and punish other people. At least his misconceptions about her didn't last long, once they came into closer contact, but I found I couldn't really forgive him his earlier hateful behaviour.

As for Michelle, I'm sorry, but she was stupid! I mean running herself into the ground, trying to run an entire ranch by herself? It was so painfully obvious that it was impossible. She does think she doesn't know what she'll do when time comes to have to castrate the cattle and do other stuff to them that requires quite a few people, but she still goes on, refusing to think about it. Come to think of it, she seems to believe that if she ignores problems, they'll go away. Just witness the way she sticks her unpaid utility bills in a drawer and forgets about them, this ending with her having her electricity cut off.

I didn't like the dynamics of John and Michelle's relationship. At first, at least, all John did was take care of Michelle and solve all her problems and generally rescue her, basically in exchange for sex. I also couldn't stand the hypocrisy of him resenting her for being a parasite when the book starts, and then trying to keep her wrapped in cotton once they become lovers. The whole thing had such a condescending feel, an air of "Just don't worry your pretty head about it", that I couldn't stop gritting my teeth.

Things improved a bit near the end, luckily, basically when John acknowledged he was in love with Michelle and when he started making an effort to allow her to do something more fulfilling with her life than sitting around in luxury.Still, too little, too late, and even when he had improved I still thought he was a condescending jerk.

Oh, and the suspense subplot was a bit of a joke. I mean, are we supposed to not realize what's going on? It was so obvious that it made John and Michelle seem like real boobs for not realizing immediately.

Why not an F, then? Well, Howard does the sexual tension very well. Also, I don't deny that this type of story has some kind of instinctive appeal. Yes, I did get a little thrill when John realized how mistaken he'd been, how he'd been misjudging the poor little put-upon heroine. It's not the type of story I like, but it's a good example of its kind and I guess a fan of hyper-dominating alpha heroes would enjoy it much more than I did.


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