Duets # 78
by Jacqueline Diamond & Nancy Warren
(Harl., $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44144-4
***
Heaven Scent is a delightful little romp set in Skunk Crossing, Texas, so named for the large population and periodic smell that wafts from said animals. I am not usually a fan of stories where the heroine takes the place of someone else and love blossoms before the hero discovers the truth, but this is an exception.

Nancy Verano, Ph.D. gets steamrolled into taking her sister Hayley’s place as a nanny. Hayley is a wannabe actress who lands a role she cannot turn down. However, at the same time, she is supposed to work on a ranch in Texas as a nanny/housekeeper for a divorced man and his two children. Nancy cannot cook but has plenty of experience babysitting her 6 younger siblings as they grew up. Her college teaching position is on hiatus for the summer, so she figures this will give her a chance to try her hand at psychology for the masses by writing an article for a woman’s magazine. Her topic can be modern day cowboys.

The cowboy in question is rancher Maxwell Richter. Max has grown up on this ranch and works hard to keep it going. When his wife left him for their marriage counselor, he assumed full time care of their two children 9-year-old Melissa and 6-year-old Griffin. Max has gone through several nannies unsuccessfully, so he started searching on the Internet. Hayley’s letter was full of partial truths and exaggerated skills, but it sure sounded good to Max.

As one might guess, things get interesting when Nancy, not Hayley, arrives at the ranch. And the flaws are many. Nancy never has ridden a horse, but does so with little problem. She is able to raise a successful garden just by reading how to on the Internet. The children, who have been labeled “wild” in the beginning, fall right into line due to her caring attitude. Max works hard all day and puts up with a piddling amount of food without a fuss.

Despite these implausibilities, the lighthearted tone to the story will keep readers from taking the flaws too seriously and to enjoy Heaven Sent.

Shotgun Nanny is an enjoyable story, although it starts off a bit slow. Annie Mathers is an entertainer, a clown by profession. She is a free spirit, full of life and scared of commitments. Her father left the family when times got tough and she fears she is just like him.

Mark Saunders is an ex-Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman who owns his own security business. Mark has recently assumed custody of his eight-year-old niece, Emily, after the death of her parents. Mark is an uptight, extremely cautious and overprotective uncle. He hires Annie for Emily’s birthday party only after he completes a background check on her. When his housekeeper/nanny gets pneumonia and cannot care for Emily for several weeks, he hires Annie for that duty.

Annie and Emily hit it off immediately and the sexual sparks fly between Annie and Mark. There is the predictable struggle between the two, which is generally lighthearted entertainment followed by a predictable ending. The insertion of a guard dog that chases squirrels is a cute addition.

There is no real motivation behind Mark’s preoccupation with security. Other than the fact that he has been a cop and cares for Emily, this seems a bit of overkill. They live in a house with a secured gate (with one code) and a house with a major security system that includes a separate code for entering and leaving. In addition, he hands Annie a remote that connects to a tracking device, a security company and the police. I kept expecting some secret to be revealed, that Emily’s parents were spies or something. But there is nothing.

Overall, I think you will find Duets #78 a nice way to spend a summer afternoon with two pleasant, humorous romances.

--Shirley Lyons


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