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a ton of fun,
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This review is from: Crooked Hearts (Mass Market Paperback)
Patricia Gaffney displays her versatility in this book and knocks me off my feet with how hilarious and down right fun Crooked Hearts is. Prepare to kick back, let loose, and enjoy a wild ride of mishaps, adventures, and brazen swindles with a couple of brilliant characters that will steal your heart - among other things throughout the course of the novel.
Reuben and Grace are both con artists whose paths cross on a Wells Fargo stage coach on the way to San Francisco. I won't give the joke away, but the nature of their meeting is hilarious and kicks off the book in grand style on a very high note. This sets the pattern for the outrageous high jinks these two will concoct once they team up to recoup their losses after their stage coach is held up and their ill-gotten gains are stolen from them.
I love Reuben - he's one of the best heroes ever. That doesn't tell you much, but really you have to read this book to find out how awesome he is, because I can only gush about him. He's so funny, so much fun, so dashing as a con artist, but so human at the same time - an incongruous, perfect mix of comedy, sex appeal, and unexpected depths. He adeptly balances the role of both buffoon and hero. He's a wine connoisseur. He's brave so long as there are no knives around. He gets beat up a lot. He's a wanderer, a cheat, a flirt, and a survivor. Best of all, he's unrepentantly and unapologetically himself. Can you tell I'm a fan?
Reuben is perfectly matched in wits and skill with Grace, who is also a con artist, and who is also awesome. We first meet her as she's masquerading as a nun packing a derringer strapped to her garter. And that really says it all doesn't it? They're a very mismatched pair, considering neither of them can trust the other as far as they can throw them - this savvy wariness goes hand in hand with a great deal of respect. They each recognize the other for the flimflam masters that they are.
My only complaint would be the general plot of the story. The author has created these two brilliant characters, but she doesn't seem to really know what to do with them. A villain emerges in the form of a Chinese gang lord named Mark Wing who becomes obsessed with Grace - which leads to a drugging and attempted rape scenario that seems dated and disturbing to me - all the more so because it cements a pattern that has begun to emerge for poor Grace. She gets stuck in situations that invariably end up with her as the brunt of a joke, at some disadvantage, more often than not because she's naked. It starts out funny, and helps along with the chemistry between her and Reuben, but I began to draw the line with the whole Mark Wing episode, which just seemed very off to me, not to mention contrived. It forces Grace into a situation that makes her look very stupid - which is all the more annoying because up to that point she isn't stupid at all, and it seems egregiously out of character for her to use such poor judgment. She ends up acting like an idiot and making stupid choices that ruin the scam they're working on at the time, which, besides having dire consequences for Reuben, gets her into a big dangerous mess that's entirely of her own making. It's a huge disappointment because it seems more like sabotage of a character that I really respected, and all for the sake of a plot twist whose only end, that I could see, was getting her in bed with the hero. So Grace gets pretty poor treatment, in the book and as a character.
After a while, though, Grace gets to redeem herself, and, except for some temporary misunderstandings that seem more like desperate filler and really test my patience, it's smooth sailing the rest of the way. Crooked Hearts is well worth a read, despite those objections I mentioned. The romance might suffer a bit in favor of all the action and adventure, especially when the intrigues involving the villainous Mark Wing take over near the end, but when they are together, and the difficulties and misunderstandings are cleared up, Reuben and Grace are a great couple. This is much lighter than the other books by Gaffney I've read - but it's not too light, not by any means.