Can a romance novel get the NRA seal of approval?

Pink Walther pk380

I did a Costco run the other day and, as I always do, I glanced at the book display.  This time, they had two books by one of my favorite junk/romance novel writers:  Linda Howard.  Both of the books were at prices comparable to what I’d pay for them on my iPad’s Kindle app so, yielding to an impulse, I put both in my cart.

The first, Shadow Woman, Howard wrote herself and, I’m sorry to say, it’s not one of her best. Not bad, but not good either. As I read it, I had the feeling that she was dealing with a deadline, rather than enjoying the writing process. In her better books (e.g., Kill and Tell, Open Season, or Mr. Perfect), you feel that she likes her characters and wants you to like them too. In this latest, Howard just seemed to be moving people through plot. So it goes. Even the best novelists aren’t going to hit a home run every time.

The second Linda Howard novel I bought is one she wrote with another Linda — Linda Jones.  The book, Running Wild, is a cowboy novel, which isn’t a genre I particularly like, and it has a bare-chested male torso on the cover, while I like my romance novels more discretely packaged (which is one of the virtues of the Kindle app). Still, with Linda Howard as the main name on the cover page, I thought I’d give it a try.

The book is a mixed bag. Linda Howard always writes romantic thrillers, but the thriller part of Running Wild isn’t very exciting. Our heroine flees a murderous stalker and ends up on a Wyoming ranch where, of course, she finds romance. For the most part, the book is just about her worrying about the stalker, rather than doing anything about the stalker. And when she’s not worrying, she is (of course) lusting after the rancher who is (of course) lusting after her. Worrying and lusting, lusting and worrying — not my idea of the most exciting book in the world.

Scary cop

The book suddenly picks up energy, though, when it comes to guns. You see, Carlin, our heroine is being stalked by a rogue cop — he’s armed and she, because she’s on the run, is not. Part of the reason she’s on the run is because, as far as she knows, her life under the radar precludes her from buying or carrying guns.  Imagine her relief when she discovers that, in Wyoming, things are different. Her enlightenment begins when, after a pathetic punch at the rancher when he scares her, she learns that she can be armed:

“That’s twice you’ve panicked,” he said sharply. “The first time you tried to run. This time you managed a swing that a ten-year-old could have ducked. Considering your situation, why the hell haven’t you taken some self-defense lessons?”

What he said was so far from what she’d been expecting that, for a moment, she scrambled for a reply. She opened her mouth, couldn’t think of an answer, closed it again. Then she shook herself, literally. There were reasons, a couple of very good ones.

“Money.  Time.  And knowing how to punch someone won’t protect me from a bullet.”


Zeke’s jaw set, his mouth as grim as she’d ever seen it, which was plenty grim.  “You need shooting lessons.”

“Why?  I don’t have a gun.”  And she couldn’t buy one, either, because the background check could possibly alert Brad to her location.  She didn’t know enough about background checks, whether they were state or federal, or how easily accessible the data was.  She could find out, using Zeke’s computer, but buying a gun would still be problematic.

He gave a cold smile that in no way alleviated the grimness of his expression.

“Getting you a weapon isn’t a problem.”

“But the background check –”

“Doesn’t apply to private sales.”

“Oh.”  Suddenly faced with an option that a second ago had seemed impossible, all she could do was swallow.  (Running Wild, p. 185).

The message couldn’t be more clear:  when the government — or a rogue element in the government — is after you, the only protection you have is through the private marketplace.  Close that private marketplace and you, the citizen, are a sitting duck.

The book gets energized again when the ranch owner and his ranch hands give Carlin shooting lessons.  After a gun safety lesson, she gets to practice with a shotgun, rifle, revolver and semi-automatic.  The semi-automatic (that would be the kind that Democrats want to outlaw) works for her because it’s easy to use.  Even better, she can have it with her at all times.  She learns this important fact when one of the ranch hands tells her that a pistol will be the most practical weapon for her:

Concealed carry purse semi automatic

He lifted a pistol, one that looked as if Wyatt Earp would have been proud to haul it around.  “She needs something that’s easy to carry, and easy to handle.”

That was easy to carry and handle?  Good lord, it was a foot long!  The mental picture of herself was so ridiculous she burst out laughing as she pointed at the pistol.  “If I wore that in a holster, it would reach of the way to my knee!  And it sure wouldn’t go in my purse.”

“Get a bigger purse,” Kenneth advised, which, when she thought about it, was, from a man’s point of view, a completely logical solution — but then, men didn’t carry purses.  Neither did she, anymore.  If it didn’t go in the pockets of her TEC jacket, or her jeans pockets, then she didn’t carry it, which brought up another issue.

“Wouldn’t I have to get a permit to carry a pistol?”  Anything that required a background check was off the table.

“Not in Wyoming,” Zeke said.  “Concealed carry is legal.”

Holy cow.  That changed everything.  She eyed the pistol with renewed interest.

The book’s message isn’t subtle.  In California, which has just about the strictest gun laws in America, our heroine would be a sitting duck.  In Wyoming, she can buy and have upon her a weapon that will at least give her a fighting chance against an armed assailant.

Unless you’re super picky, Running Wild is a good way to while away a few pleasant hours in romance-land.  More than that, I encourage every one of you to spend the $6 or $7 at Costco or Amazon (or wherever) to buy it, just to make a statement that you approve of books that highlight why our Second Amendment rights are so important.  And if you know someone at the NRA, maybe you should tell them to put this on their approved NRA fiction list (assuming they have one).

(Also, if you like romantic thrillers, give Linda Howard’s other books a try.  I never dislike any of her books, but there are some, such as the ones I listed at the top of this post, that I really love.)

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  • Jose

    When liberals say they want to close the “gun show loophole” they are either speaking in ignorance, or their real intention is to prevent all firearm transfers between private individuals.

    Aside from preventing heirlooms passing down through the generations, it would prevent someone providing a firearm to a friend or family member in danger, as portrayed in the story.

    That probably doesn’t happen very often, but what self respecting parent would deny the means of self protection to any offspring mature enough to use it?

    In my case, I have a couple firearms that have been in the family for almost one hundred years. Unless they are used in a crime, what moral right does anyone have to take them away?

  • jj

    Not super picky, but one little pick: as far as anyone knows Wyatt Earp never carried or used a pistol in his life.  Revolvers, sure; including the insanely unwieldy and generally ridiculous Buntline cannon, but his time was not pistol time.  He probably would have found pistols somewhat strange after a lifetime of wheel-guns.  Ms. Howard needs to pick up her awareness of the differences.  No pistol looks like something he’d have carried: he never carried one.

  • Ymarsakar

    This book certainly must have resonated with you, Book, considering your range lessons.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Here’s some practical advice for you (looking forward, of course),Book:
    Put it on your birthday wish list for Hubby. 

  • weathtd

    JJ, the terminology did not change until the late 1800s.  Prior to that time, handguns were called pistols, hence the term pistolero for someone proficient with handguns rather than long guns. Wyatt Earp would have referred to his weapon as a pistol.  Many of the writings of the period call the “gunslingers” of Western movies as “pistol fighters”.  Not trying to start argument, just saying.

  • Danny Lemieux

    This is my rifle, this is my gun…one is for shooting, one is for fun. 

  • Indigo Red

    To extend weathtd, there’s no credible evidence a 12″ Buntline Special ever actually existed for Wyatt, the Masterson bros, or anyone else. If anyone has one, I’d sure like to see it, but in over 100 yrs, nobody has produced a period Buntline Special. Wyatt Earp, contrary to poplar belief, seldom carried a firearm and when he did, used it as a club to ‘buffalo’ suspects by knocking them up side the head.
    Wyatt and his brothers have come down to us as ‘gunfighters’ as we understand the term through Hollywood – a cold blooded killer who gunned down men in the street, a hired gunman. In Wyatt’s time, a ‘gun fighter’ was one who fought guns and this is borne out in every town the Earps served as peace officers when their first order of business was to ask the town fathers for the authority to ban the carrying of firearms in town. The Earps were very clearly gun controllers, hence, gunfighters. Those who used guns as a profession were called gun slingers, gun handlers, pistoleros, and gun hands among many others. It is amusing to say Diane Feinstein is a gunfighter.

  • Jose

    I’ve always wondered if Wyatt actually had a Buntline Special, if the longer barrel wasn’t specifically intended for use as a club.

  • Ymarsakar

    Not everything people believe is true. It pays to have some introspection before jumping the gun.

  • jj

    Weathd: maybe, but she wrote the book last year, not in 1876.  Unless she did in dialect, she should know.
    Indigo Red: Earp’s biographer, Stuart Lake, opined that Earp had one, and primarily employed it as a club.  I wasn’t there, I don’t know.

  • Bookworm

    In the context of the book, I think the Wyatt Earp reference was to let the savvy reader know how little our heroine knows about guns.  And really, when it comes to protection, history is optional.  You just need to know gun safety, how to load, how to aim, and how to shoot.

  • Indigo Red

    jj – Stuart Lake was a good story teller for a dime novelist and much of what he wrote just wasn’t so as exaggeration was a valued tool. The Buntline Special may have simply been the Colt Revolver-Carbine which was a standard revolver w/a longer barrel and a Skeleton Stock made from a metal rod formed in the shape of a shoulder stock and attached to the grip back by special screw. They were hard to handle because both hands had to be behind the cylinder when firing to avoid the powder flash discharge from the front of the cylinder. However, the first Colt Revolver-Carbines didn’t leave the factory until 1877, a year after Ned Buntline was supposed to have presented the guns to the five Dodge City lawmen. As a writer of Western adventures, Ned was a steady traveler, but there is no record or indication he was in Dodge at any time during 1876 under the name Buntline or his own name, Edward Zane Carroll Judson. Ned Buntline himself was a prolific liar and best selling dime novel writer in the US and Territories and one of the richest, too.

  • KellyM

    Hi Book, 
    I have been lurking here on your blog for a few months and finally decided to join in. And when the discussion turns to romance novels, count me in!
    Linda Howard is an author who was once in my regular rotation, and I still have older copies of both “Kill and Tell” and the prequel, “All the Queen’s Men”. Loved them both. I enjoyed some of her other earlier books which seemed to have an edgier feeling. But it was all I could do to read “Mr. Perfect” all the way through without tossing it across the room.
    In terms of a character getting the NRA seal of approval, I’d have to go with Anita Blake. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter who reluctantly finds herself in a quasi-romantic triangle between herself, a vampire and a werewolf. And this was long before “Twilight” raised its ugly head.
    The books are not for everyone but are a compelling series once you get into it. Anita’s fave weapon is her Browning High Power with a Firestar 9mm as her clutch piece. See the link below for a visual list of Anita’s arsenal.
    Laurell K. Hamilton, the author, was extremely thorough in her research into the various firearms and weapons her characters use. They are presented as tools, nothing more or less, used to either dispatch various preternatural beings or protect the user from being dispatched. Anita’s descriptions are always logical and dispassionate and would give most NRA members the ooey-gooeys listening to her. It’s one of the things I love about Anita. I don’t know anything about Ms. Hamilton’s personal views on firearms  or gun control but given the detail in the books I can’t imagine she didn’t spend some quality time at the range getting up close and personal.