A Hard-Hearted Man
by Melanie Craft
(Silh. Int. Moments # 870, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07870-6
***
I started out thinking that I was not going to like Melanie Craft's first book for Silhouette Intimate Moments. The heroine proceeded to embark on one of those TSTL (too stupid to live) excursions that usually turn me off and the hero seemed alpha in the extreme. But by the time I finished the story, I concluded that A Hard- Hearted Man is a perfectly acceptable romance.

I suppose what tipped the scales for me was the unusual setting. How many books do we find set in contemporary Kenya? I also liked the fact that the heroine was an archeologist and an academic, and, although she did a few foolish things, she generally showed a modicum of good sense. The hero was a bit stereotypical, but attractive enough. As I said, acceptable.

Dr. Lilah Evans has arrived in Kenya to undertake an archeological dig at a most promising site. She has managed to find financing for her expedition (no mean feat) and to convince the owner of the property to allow her to excavate part of his property. Lilah knows this is her great chance fame and (even more important!) tenure will result from a successful find.

Imagine Lilah's distress when she arrives in Nairobi to discover that her local host, Hugh Bradford, has died suddenly and that his son Ross is in the process of selling the ranch out from under her. Ross, a true conservationist, is turning over the ranch to the government to be a game preserve. If the government owns the property, Lilah will need a permit which could take months.

Believing that if Ross would only see the artifacts from the canyon, Lilah tries a bit of B & E (this was tstl), only to be apprehended by Ross. Ross is forced to confront the intensity of Lilah's commitment to her project and agrees to delay turning over the ranch for six weeks. But there is a catch. One reason that Ross wants to move quickly on the transfer of the title is that he fears that neighboring rancher Jake Wyatt will use his political pull to turn the property into an industrial development. Lilah has to agree that she will help Ross by trying to determine what Jake's plans are.

The campaign to prevent the evil Jake from despoiling the natural land serves as a backdrop to the romance between Lilah and Ross. As I mentioned above, Ross is a stereotypical romance hero; an unhappy childhood with selfish parents who provided a bad example of married life has led him to close himself off from love and caring. Can Lilah break through his defenses?

Let's admit that A Hard-Hearted Man is not an outstanding romance, but it is a promising first book. As Craft perfects her craft, (I couldn't resist!) she may well offer us many hours of enjoyable reading.

--Jean Mason


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