The Frasers, Book 5
Heat Factor: Lots of sex off stage, plus a few mildly detailed scenes that we get to see.
Character Chemistry: The first time they meet, he gets a boner and she is rude for no reason.
Plot: A lot, but none of it seems to matter.
This is one of those books where a million things seem to happen, but each thing is quickly resolved, or the stakes feel extremely low (even when they’re not!). There’s a kidnapping, a daring rescue, a hold-up of a stagecoach, some long-simmering father-daughter tension, a crazy man out for revenge, a bunch of premarital sex, an ongoing fight about the worth of bounty hunters, some weddings, and a giant family reunion. The end result is that when I finished reading Holding Out for a Hero, I wasn’t quite sure what the main conflict was between Rico and Jenny because there was so much else going on. Because I wasn’t entirely sure what the conflict was between them, that meant that the fact that they fell in love wasn’t that interesting.
Now, there is definitely mutual physical attraction between Rico and Jenny. Literally the second sentence of the entire book is: “He felt a heated tug at his groin as he focused on the young woman dressed in a yellow gown.” They haven’t even met yet, and he has a boner for her, because she is just that stunning. Of course, Rico is also ridiculously hot, with lots of muscles etc, so we’ve checked that box.
Their emotional chemistry is less convincing. Jenny is extremely rude to Rico because he’s a bounty hunter – particularly during their initial time together, which also happens to be directly after Rico has rescued her and her aunt from a malevolent gang that planned to rape and murder them just for funsies. Bitch, who cares if he rescued you for the money! (Of course, because he is nobility incarnate and apparently can conjure food and supplies out of thin air, he refuses the reward.) He saved your life, how about you follow his directions without mouthing off? I guess it doesn’t matter, because Rico shrugs it off and maybe also thinks it’s funny, and Jenny starts being nice to him. They have these abrupt shifts in how their relationship works – I think the goal is to show that they are both conflicted, because they have this physical attraction that goes beyond just the physical, but they are both reluctant to pursue that attraction for whatever reason? This arc can absolutely work, it just doesn’t really here, perhaps because there are so many distractions in terms of the plot. In this case, I just felt like Jenny was obnoxious and entitled.
Beyond the less than satisfying love story, this book also features problematic treatments of women of color. The big bad evil dude rapes and murders two women of color; both of these incidents occur off the page and are subsequently used to forward the plot for our protagonists. The first is Rico’s Hispanic mother, who was fridged before the book began and serves as his primary motivator for chasing after said big bad. So her death is only meaningful in that it shapes the life of her son. The second is an unnamed Apache teenager, who is killed by the big bad while he is hiding out, waiting to get revenge on Rico. She is purely a plot device, so that the big bad can die for just cause without our hero getting his hands dirty; in fact, this way, the army doesn’t even need to get its hands dirty, as the Apaches do the job for them. I get that having the bad guy kill off minor characters is a standard thing, but the way it was handled in this particular case was gross.
My final takeaway: I have not been having luck with Westerns, y’all. Anyone have a recommendation of an author who writes awesome stories set in the Wild Wild West?
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