Chasing Charlie by Kathy Carmichael
(Avalon, $19.95, G) ISBN 0-8034-9464-5
***
Librarian Charlotte Nelson, Charlie to her friends, spies a red dress at Neiman's ­ THE DRESS ­ one that's a far cry from her usual staid wardrobe. Tired of being a ‘turtle,' as her roomie has dubbed her, Charlie buys it, never knowing how it's going to change her life.

Davis Murphy is a successful Dallas businessman who's ready to pursue his lifelong dream. He wants to be a cowboy. However, before his dream can become a reality, he's got to convince his mother to marry her longtime beau and not worry about Davis' lack of serious female companionship. His time is short; the beau is moving to Japan, with or without Davis' mom.

Davis hatches a scheme to ease his mom's worry about her bachelor son. He'll produce a faux fiancée, ease his mom's mind, she'll marry, go to Japan and poof. . . he can be a cowboy.

When Davis spots Charlie at Neiman's in THE RED DRESS, he recognizes her from the library. He's been there lately, doing a lot of cowboy research. He asks her out and she says NO, even trying to hide in the lingerie section to avoid him, but this guy is tenacious. He pitches his idea of a short-term engagement. She still says NO, but Davis prevails.

What Davis envisions as a simple, quick plan falls apart. His mom and Charlie hit it off, so much so that Charlie is asked to be in the wedding party. Uh oh!

Charlie's reluctance to become involved with Davis stems from her dislike of All Things Cowboy. She was raised on a ranch, wants nothing to do with dare-devil cowboys, and the fact that Davis dreams of cowboyhood is a turn-off. When Davis finds out that Charlie's older brothers are rodeo legends, his eyes almost glaze over in admiration. But is it for Charlie or her ranching heritage?

Stories where opposites repel and then ultimately attract have to be convincing for me to buy into the story. I'm skeptical of the minister/showgirl, the professor/waitress or the pilot/pilot's widow stories. Here it's almost too contrived that a woman who wants nothing to do with a cowboy is pursued by a cowboy wannabe.

Another problem I have is Davis, a successful businessman, wanting to chuck it all to be a cowboy. I live in Texas; the cowboy myth is exaggerated. When friends from out of state visited, I had a hard time pointing out cowboys to them. Most of the ones we saw in jeans and cowboy hats had on athletic shoes. Also, cattle ranching and being in the rodeo are hard, strenuous work. Davis' interest seemed too much of a lark, a ‘fun' thing to do. It's a bit like going to the ice rink and expecting to be Tara Lipinski overnight or driving a car, expecting to emulate Jeff Gordon's driving skill. The believability factor in Davis being a cowboy is on the down side of realism.

Something else that rings a discordant note are Charlie's brothers, throwbacks to another place and time. When they arrive to save Charlie from Davis' clutches, doing their imitation of the cavalry and ruining Charlie's round-day-voo, their HeeHaw persona left a bad taste in my mouth. Local yokels do not rate high on my laugh-o-meter.

Avalon Publishing is new to me. This hardback book is a good size, with a lovely dust jacket, BUT it's $19.95 for a glorified category romance, one that's not original. Those of you who enjoy cowboy stories may find this book charming, with true love and common sense triumphing. Perhaps I don't buy into the cowboy mystique, but that doesn't mean that others won't. Chasing Charlie is very much a matter of personal preference.

--Linda Mowery


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