Kate Angell's debut novel has a winning premise: Two successful authors struggle to cowrite a novel while their fictional protagonists take physical form and try to take over their story. Devin James writes sweet western romances with a demure heroine, while Shane McNamara's gunslinger hero is a hard-ridin', straight-shootin', man's man. Shane and Devlin can hardly share the same room, much less get their creations to cooperate for a happy ending.

Angell paints with a very broad brush, creating comically prudish women and testosterone-plagued men, with the two authors and their characters serving as reflections of each other. For instance, Miss Rose, a prim saloon owner, always wears pale pink and guards her virtue. Her creator, Devlin, wears business suits, sensible shoes and a single braid in hair. The characterizations and events are simple and direct, reminiscent of comic-book plots.

Angell's prose relies too heavily on stereotypes and clichés, but her humor and plotting show promise. CALDER'S ROSE won't get you pondering the mysteries of human existence, but it is likely to give you a few smiles and a curiosity to see whose version of the blended romance (the characters' or their authors') will win out. (Apr., 320 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kay Mayo