Monday, January 17, 2011

The Outlaw by Rebecca Leigh

TITLE: The Outlaw
AUTHOR: Rebecca Leigh
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 16k)
GENRE: Gay steampunk erotic romance
COST: $3.99

Damian Junter is a Bringer, the arm and executioner for justice, on his way west in search of Kell Laughlin, a man accused of killing a statesman’s wife and children. The man he finds isn’t what he expects, and when that’s combined with his uncertainty about the man’s guilt, he has no moral choice but to get to know the man first, to determine whether or not he actually did the crime he’s been sanctioned to die for…

Steampunk is beginning to proliferate the market, but not always – and quite often the opposite, actually – with any positive impact. This is another story where the milieu overshadows any type of consistent storytelling, though it suffers from other problems as well.

It starts out with Damian Junter boarding a “beast” to travel west in search of his latest prey. A Bringer by trade, he’s responsible for finding criminals and meting out punishment, death more often than not. His latest quest is for a man named Kell Laughlin, who is accused of murdering a statesman’s wife and children. In Damian’s book, there is no worse crime, but not everything he’s been told about the crime adds up. When he finds Kell in Terra Noir, he’s already decided he needs to get to know the man first and size him up before passing judgment. Of course, Kell is attractive in every way, and blatant in his physical admiration of Damian. It doesn’t take long before they are physically involved and Damian decides Kell is innocent after all.

While the setting at the beginning is established well enough and with appropriate detail, Damian comes across almost from the start as an egotistical, vain, arrogant jerk. He likes scaring people. He considers himself the best, and frankly, puts almost everybody else beneath him. He’s practically antisocial, giving one-syllable responses to strangers, or in the case of the woman sitting next to him on the beast, blunt declarations meant to scare them off. I’ll say it straight off, I didn’t like him. He rubbed me the wrong way from the very start. I’m sure he’s meant to be some sort of proud anti-hero who sees the light of his ways through the course of true love, but honestly, at the start, he’s just an asshole I wanted to knock into next Tuesday.

His characterization isn’t helped at all by his relationship with Kell. His sudden and unexpected attraction to the other man seems to give the character a personality transplant. All of a sudden, he’s talking about wanting to chat and share feelings, contrary to all of his antisocial behavior at the start. It’s a true love fixes all trope, as well as an instant true love, which in the case of these two characters especially, never, ever worked.

The story is hindered by common mistakes throughout the text, too, like when Damian is getting Kell ready for anal sex and asks the man if he wants to be thumb-fucked, then proceeds “to pull his thumps out.” Mix these types of prevalent mistakes with the lack of logical flow that plagues the plot (like a minor character being gone only for several days, yet not only does that afford Damian enough time to move in with Kell and be accepted by the entire town as his equal/lover, it seems to disappear when he goes off in search of him and discovers him almost immediately when he’d been gone long enough to merit having multiple camps for Damian to find), as well as an ending that doesn't actually resolve the conflicts the plot creates, and it’s a recipe for a poor read.

It has a gorgeous cover, though. I’m not surprised it’s by the talented Anne Cain.


6/10 – Overlooked mistakes in the prose as well as the lack of any kind of logical flow made this a lot harder than it had to be

Hero #1

4/10 – Inconsistent, and as much as I like an asshole hero every once in a while, he was just too vain and smug to be likeable for me

Hero #2

4/10 – Flat and idealized

Entertainment value

3/10 – The steampunk setting is the only thing that saves this

World building

5/10 – Though there’s a good start to some of the steampunk elements, the lack of follow-through derails it




Kassa said...

That's kind of how I felt about the book. The lack of a logical plot drove me crazy. I wanted to throw the book several times.

This is why I hate the new covers. I get sucked in by the pretty and it's simply a pretty cover with no correlation to the book.

Book Utopia Mom said...

I should have paid closer attention to your review, though I wasn't online very much at all the last few months of '10 so maybe I missed it the first time around (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it, ha!).

Of all the reviewers I look at online, yours are the ones I most often agree with. In fact, I've actually deleted ebooks I've already purchased because you've read/reviewed it before I have.