Finally a Bride
Forever His Bride
Unexpected Bride

Once A Lawman
by Lisa Childs
(Harl. American #1245, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-75249-0
Once a Lawman is a story about two people who totally misjudge each other and then spend time getting to know the truth and having to eat crow.  It works well in Child’s capable hands; this is one author that I find enjoyment from more and more often.

Tessa Howard is in court again for a speeding ticket, praying she doesn’t lose her license since she needs to drive for her job and she has people who are counting on her.  Lieutenant Chad Michalski lost his wife and son in a car wreck in which speed was involved, and has dedicated his life to trying to keep others from that same type of loss.  He has a reputation for never giving anyone a warning and Tessa finds him immune to her flirtation.  Instead, he shows up in court and offers her an out – attend a Citizen’s Police Academy for eight weeks and she won’t have the ticket on her record.  The judge agrees and now she finds herself stuck.

Chad was attracted to Tessa’s eyes and her demeanor from the outset, but pushed aside his feelings.  He finds himself again attracted to her in court.  But he assumes the worst and compares her to his deceased wife, a fun-loving, devil-may-care woman who ultimately sped one too many times.  He assumes Tessa is a self-centered career woman and he has a hard time seeing past what appears to be her careless nature.  She always seems to be running late, and that seems to be the reason for her speeding.  But he is wrong.

In reality, Tessa is a woman who has dedicated herself to her family of six brothers and sisters.  Her mother, who could never pick the right man, is a bartender who often worked at nights.  She often put love ahead of her children and Tessa, as the oldest, had to assume a lot of responsibility.  At 27, she has purchased the house they are all living in and feels like she is the mother to all the kids.  Those kids include a teenage boy looking to spread his wings and a teenage girl who isn’t sure what she wants.  Her job is important to her, but only as a means to an end.

On the other hand, Tessa sees Chad as a holier than thou know-it-all who does nothing but look down on others.  She sees him as too-perfect, even though she feels the attraction and connection.  When they are constantly thrown together in the class, the barriers start to come down and the truth about their circumstances slowly start coming to life.  With the help of a few friends and family, love starts to blossom.

This book is a character study about two people who really did have depth, but often acted like they were just going through the motions.  Standoffishness is one of the best defenses there is and has been working for Chad until he met Tessa.   Seeming indifference worked for Tessa until she met Chad, whom she felt could see through even her most refined motions. Their interactions are mature and often result in small steps of accommodation that are often missing in a shorter category story. 

Another thing Childs does in this book is to show both the good and the flaws in these people.  Tessa’s mother is not the worthless flirt she first seems.  The Captain who gets Chad to do what he needs to in order to move on has demons of his own.  Both Tessa and Chad have strong points that are attractive, yet they both have made choices that may not have been the best ones to make.  This added a lot of depth to a story that was only a little over 200 pages.

Once A Lawman may fall under the category genre, but it reads more like a longer contemporary romance and comes highly recommended from this reviewer. 

--Shirley Lyons 

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