"Crooked Hearts" - Patricia Gaffney - 1996

No matter how many re-issues or new covers they smack on it, you can pretty much tell when a book was originally written and published.  "Crooked Hearts" for example, takes place in the 1880's, but feels very 1990's.  Not in an anachronistic way, but in an overall effort way.  90's romances moved away from the early bodice rippers, often by introducing beta heroes and outspoken strong heroines.  The best examples from the 90's introduced complicated couples and intricate plot lines full of emotion, intrigue and of course, tons of sexual tension.  "Crooked Hearts" technically has all these elements, but not enough soul to win me over (just like the Olympic short program in "The Cutting Edge")  I found the H/H emotionally immature and kind of annoying, but initially I enjoyed reading about their swindles and escapades.  Unfortunately, the villain was a lisping cartoon, their first romantic encounter is drug-induced and ridiculous, and I saw the how the happy resolution would play out from the first few chapters of the book.  AAR gave it an 'A' grade, but I found it just about average.