By Jacquline Diamond:

Assigment: Groom!

The Cowboy & the Shotgun Bride

Duets 2

I Do! I Do!

Mistletoe Daddy

A Real-Live Sheikh

By Charlotte Maclay:

Courting Cupid

Deputy Daddy

The Right Cowboy's Bed

 
Duets 55 by Jacqueline Diamond & Charlotte Maclay
(Harl.Duets #55, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-44121-5
***
Duets 55 spotlights The Mail Order Men of Nowhere Junction. The Internet plays a big part in both stories, which just goes to show how important it's become, even in Nowhere Junction, Texas. This book is considered to be ‘linked', which means that the same four characters are in both stories, so we can meet them before, during and after the HEA.

In Jacqueline Diamond's More than the Doctor Ordered, four-time prom queen Lilibeth Anderson has placed an on-line ad at HitchingPost.com, advertising that she's a "fun-loving heiress and former beauty queen who seeks matrimony." Her ad has been answered by Lucas McRifle, who's down on his luck and needs an heiress to invest in a product he wants to market. In his correspondence with Lilibeth, he's neglected to mention the present state of his financial affairs.

Instead of driving into Nowhere Junction in his luxury car­ (it's been repossessed),­ Lucas is riding a motorcycle. Before he can get to town to meet Lilibeth, he has a slight accident and ends up in the hospital. With some fast thinking, he claims amnesia, which will give him time to meet Lilibeth and check out her fortune.

What he hadn't counted on was falling for the local physician, Dr. Mimsy Miles, a shy, quiet woman who's messing up all of his financial plans but he's drawn to Mimsy inexplicably. The poor guy is between the proverbial rock and hard place. Yes, he loves Mimsy but he's in desperate need of capital, so he's pretending to be interested in Lilibeth. No, this isn't admirable, but it's done with a skilled touch, thus saving Lucas from being a lout. His duplicity is also short-lived.

Writing fiction means that authors don't have to adhere strictly to logic and realism, but a modicum of credibility is necessary to make the storyline palatable. More than the Doctor Ordered had several plot lines that just had me sighing with consternation.

The biggest boo-boo, one that grated on my nerves, regards the implosion of a local elementary school. The fellow doing the work is none other than the local principal. Okay, I can almost see where economics would dictate hiring somebody cheap, but then why would the implosion be done during the day, with tents set up for people to watch? Safety concerns are blatantly ignored, as evidenced when Lucas becomes a hero and saves a kid.

To be in the middle of nowhere, Nowhere Junction has a circus atmosphere, with a cast of characters who are truly unique . . . okay, some are downright weird. This whole carnival feel tends to give More than the Doctor Ordered a surreal feel, one that's less comical and more outlandish. Are you really going to pay much attention to a character who bakes prune and pickle muffins? And she's indicative of most of the town's looney tunes.

When Lucas's duplicity is exposed, Mimsy does make him grovel. Good for her! Also, get ready for a fantastical ending. Talk about everything being wrapped up in a big bow!

By the end of More than the Doctor Ordered, Lilibeth's ad in HitchingPost.com still hasn't gotten her anywhere, plus the town needs a new principal. The old one now has a new career with a demolition company. That's the perfect segue into A Hitchin' Time by Charlotte Maclay.

Alexander Peabody is Nowhere Junction's new principal. Lilibeth thinks that Alex has answered her HitchingPost.com ad, but soon realizes that he keeps referring to an ad he's answered advertising for a new principal. He's a hunk and a half, but he knows nothing about Lilibeth's ad at HitchingPost.com. Considering that she lost Lucas to Dr. Mimsy, Lilibeth is determined to keep Alex. After all, not that many men are keepers in Nowhere Junction.

Alex is immediately smitten with Lilibeth, but he's got Issues with a capital I. His family made their fortune manufacturing kazoos, and Alexander wants to leave his mark, too. He wants to be a famous inventor and won't allow himself to enter into a committed relationship with any woman until he's successful.

Alex appears to have been a nerd and perhaps a child prodigy. However, how an intelligent man can decide to invent some of the stuff he does is beyond me. M.E.S.S, short for Multi-Environment Stock Shelver, is a robotic invention which will help Lilibeth shelve the items in her parents' drugstore. Well, M.E.S.S. causes one. And then there's R.A.S.H, short for Robotic Action Suds and Hygiene, an invention which will clean and dry a baby's bottom. Just what every new mother needs, a baby bidet with too much water pressure. Sure, just pry the kid off the ceiling. Maybe he'll drip-dry while he's stuck up there.

As an educator myself, I know that what goes on at Alex's school couldn't happen in real life. You don't build an elementary school gym around an oil derrick, not even in Texas. After Lilibeth and Alex are caught by a bull and are forced to flee for their lives, something really dumb happens. Alex drives downtown, naked except for a piece of foam rubber that Lilibeth has handed him to cover his intimate details. I don't know about the rest of the world, but that's probably considered moral turpitude in Texas and is one of the few ways to lose a job in education.

Now comes the hard part. How is it that I can give Duets 55 an acceptable rating, yet not have many good things to say about it? Duets 55 may have the kind of yuk-yuk humor that some people find really appealing. By giving a few examples I've tried to show what didn't work for me, but there are some who may find it a laugh a minute.

Humor is intensely personal. I think we can all find common ground in tragedy, but what's funny to one may be outlandish to another. All four characters were neat people, and perhaps if I'd been in a different mood, then more of the humor would have hit my funny bone instead of bouncing off.

Maybe I needed a prune and pickle muffin. Or maybe not.

--Linda Mowery


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