Code Name: Cowboy

Reluctant Dad

Her Counterfeit Husband

Reluctant Wife

Rodeo Dad

Strangers When We Married

Man on a Mission by Carla Cassidy
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1077, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27147-6
April Cartwright doesnít know what to make of her new job as a social director of a dude ranch. The man who hired her dies before she arrives and his family seems less than welcoming. But she promised her son that they would live on a ranch and she needs a job, so she sticks around even though strange things are going on that no one is willing to talk about.

Her one friend seems to be Mark Delaney, the middle brother in the family. But Mark gorgeous and sweet though he may be, appears to have suffered brain damage that is said to have occurred at the same time the previous social director was murdered.. April canít help liking Mark and is a little embarrassed to realize she is physically attracted to him.

Man on a Mission doesnít start with Aprilís point of view. It starts with Mark. The previous social director warned Mark (right before he was hit on the head) that something is going on, and that he should not trust anyone. When he comes to after having been knocked out, he hears a doctor say something about possible brain damage and decides to fake it.

Readers know from the beginning there is no problem with Markís brain. With his ability to trust people, maybe, but not his brain. The mystery he sets out to solve isnít nearly as interesting as the one April needs to unravel.

There are some potential landmines in the story that are not adequately addressed. For example, April isnít sure why she likes Mark so much at first and then hints itís because she figures she can trust him. She feels betrayed when she learns the truth, but her feelings of betrayal are glossed over. Markís feelings arenít explored too well, either. He comes from a family that doesnít trust one another. Heís been told not to trust anyone. Then he goes ahead and blurts out the truth to April. Why? True, she wasnít there when the whole mess started. Even so, why should he assume that he can trust her when he canít even trust people heís known all his life? And why would he want to drag her into this?

Then there is the problem with a normal heroine liking a hero who supposedly is not normal. Yes, heís gorgeous, but she wouldnít dream of sleeping with him. Yes, she thinks heís uncomplicated and safe and that doesnít really attract her - but sheís interested when he shows flashes of being more than he seems. Shouldnít she far more embarrassed and uncomfortable about being attracted to a guy who apparently has about the intellectual and emotional maturity of her young son?

Man on a Mission has a story that had a lot potential. Unfortunately, much of that potential went untapped.

--Irene Williams

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