By Any Other Name

Mother of the Year

A Sheriff in Tennessee by Lori Handeland
(Harl. Super. #1063, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-71063-1
A Sheriff in Tennessee is a change of pace from most novels. Although I enjoyed it, many of the characteristics about the two lead players made me yearn for something more traditional. This story is written with good pacing, is inspiring and tugs at your heartstrings. But it didnít completely work for me.

Insecurity is the one word that describes both Sheriff Gabriel Klein and superstar model Isabelle Ash. This insecurity rules their lives even though both have matured into successful careers and the good life.

Klein, as most people call him, is not a handsome man. He is large, well built, with short hair and a less than pretty face. His mother only showed him love when she was between husbands. (She had six.) In high school, a beautiful cheerleader led him on, making him think she returned his love, only to smash his dreams with harsh reality. He joined the marines, and has been a success in law enforcement. He just recently relocated to Pleasant Ridge, Tennessee, a small town of 1,000 people. He hopes he can truly help people and make a difference here while finding a home.

Belle became a supermodel for Victoriaís Secret and SI swimwear out of necessity. She is hiding many secrets including an overweight childhood, a bulimia disorder, a family that is poor and needs the money she makes and a fear that she is pretending all the time. She is offered a job in a new television series set in small town America and must learn what she needs to play a sheriff.

Pleasant Ridge is chosen as the site location for this new show, and part of the contract is for Sheriff Klein to teach Belle everything he knows. He hates it and doesnít hide the fact that he hates it. He is attracted to Belle, but hates that she is so beautiful. Belle is attracted to him, as she sees the inner beauty, but cannot believe he sees anything but her outer shell.

As you might guess, they spend enough time together to really get to know the inner person and to relate to each other as friends. Yet, neither believes enough in themselves to think that someone else could love them.

For a small town, there is plenty of activity such as a family feud causing a bus to wreck, injuring many people. The townspeople are interesting and bring some fun into the story. We have the smarmy local mayor who has political ambitions and thinks Belle can help. There is the eccentric old lady with a crazy attack Chihuahua who is sweet on the bumbling Barney Fife type deputy. The deputy provides much of the comic relief in the story and yet he is written as a stereotype that ultimately makes him a little on the pathetic side.

As Belle and Klein get to know each other, they discover their hidden strengths and support each other in taking risks. Yet they still feel so insecure inside that this interferes in their acceptance of their feelings for each other. When the real world of Hollywood descends on this small town all heck breaks loose and their love is tested.

It is difficult to pinpoint what bothered me most while I was reading. I disliked that both lead characters allowed their past to ruin their present. Often vulnerability in a hero or heroine makes them more real - this time it just makes it harder to stay engaged in the resolution to their problems.

Then there was the whining the two did when they were working through their problems in their minds. Belle laments and worries that if Klein finds out she is bulimic, he will just walk away from her. Klein worries that one day Belle will wake up and realize he is ugly and will just leave.

I did enjoy their romantic entanglements and I liked the little town of Pleasant Ridge. If you are interested in watching two people overcome their major insecurities, then A Sheriff in Tennessee may be more than just pleasant.

--Shirley Lyons

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