Hill Country Hero
by Ann DeFee
(Harl. American #1296, $4.99, PG) ISBN 978-0373-75300-0
****
An all-American girl runs smack into a hero both on and off the football field in this rather delightful and surprisingly deep story.† There inít a lot new here, but Hill Country Hero is a good book.

CiCi (for Collier Channing) Hurst is the daughter of Texas Bob Hurst, the owner of the professional football team the Road Runners.†† She is finally moving on after a nasty divorce where her defensive linesman husband was screwing around on her with a librarianÖand in their house. too.† Her self-esteem a bit dented, CiCi is at loose ends.† Her dad first suggests she temporarily take over as the person in the Roadrunner mascot suit.† Despite misgivings, CiCi agrees as long as it is temporary.

Jake Culpepper is an All-Pro wide receiver.† He got his feckless cousin Dwayne a job as the Roadrunner mascot, but Jake is now out for blood.† Dwayne stole Jakeís Porsche and wrecked it.† Arriving at the stadium for practice, Jake is amazed to see Dwayne practicing with the cheerleaders.† He tackles him, wanting to make a strong point and take out his frustration on DwayneÖbut uh oh, that isnít Dwayne in the suit.

Thus starts the romance between Jake and CiCi.† Texas Bob decides that Jake needs to cool off.† He sends Jake to work for one month at a summer camp run by the Hurstís foundation.† CiCi just happens to be the director.† The camp works with kids from the tougher part of town.† The idea is to give them a good summer with exercise, academics and responsibility and hopefully they wonít get lost in a system that seems to have forgotten them.† Jake is not thrilled.† He is already trying to keep his cousins Dwayne and Darrell out of jail.† He isnít interested in spending time with more juvenile delinquents.

But CiCi loves the work and is both thrilled and upset that Jake will be there to help her. She is attracted to his athletic body, cute face and intelligent persona.† But she also has sworn off men, particularly football players who have women falling at their feet.†† She needs to build her self-confidence, and yet is sure Jake will never find her attractive.† Jake, meanwhile, needs a contract extension from her old man, so the last thing he needs is complications with romance.† Jake doesnít do relationships.† He has shallow women chasing him all the time.† With her money and background, Jake envisions CiCi as a spoiled debutante who would never dirty her hands on a guy from a poor part of town who had to work for his scholarship and every opportunity that came his way.

These two create sparks, yet they actually form a bond of partnership and friendship before they act on any physical attraction.† This whole story takes place in just a month or two so this makes the quickness of their feelings more palatable.† When complications arise from some arguments and misunderstandings, neither is sure they are going to be able to resolve things.† But taking chances is something that they are both good at and ultimately they have their HEA.

The author paints a nice picture of the Texas Hill Country and of the camp.† Her supporting characters add to the tale without bogging it down in sentimentality.† CiCiís sisters are both featured and one may even have a chance at her own story.† All this compliments the main story and adds to the readerís enjoyment.† Overall, Hill Country Hero is a good story and well worth the time.†

--Shirley Lyons


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