A Cowboy's Heart

The Outlaw's Bride

 
Trouble in Paradise
by Liz Ireland
(Harl. Historical #373, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29130-2
****
An author capable of making a Nebraska prairie town in 1892 seem like a fun place to live is an author worth reading. Liz Ireland's latest Harlequin Historical is an adorably funny romance guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Ellie Fitzsimmons thought she was in love with her employer's son, so against her better judgment, she allowed herself to be seduced by him. When she discovered she was pregnant, not only did the father of her baby refuse to acknowledge the child as his, but she also found herself out of a job. Wanting to get as far away from New York as possible to begin anew with her unborn child, Ellie sets off for Paradise, Nebraska, where Parker McMillan, her pen pal of a few years, lives.

When Ellie meets Parker, he turns out to be both handsome and sweet. Parker opens up his home to her and their longtime camaraderie through letter writing evolves into a wonderful platonic friendship. Although they get along well together as friends, Ellie knows she isn't in love with Parker and vice versa. Parker may be as sweet as they come, but the man she can't get out of her mind is his cranky, brooding brother Roy.

Roy McMillan doesn't like the fact that a stranger from New York is coming to Paradise to stay with his family for an undetermined amount of time. His brother Parker is too softhearted to Roy's way of thinking. Parker not only falls in love too easily, but worse yet, he becomes a melodramatic, romantic milksop each time he gets caught by Cupid's bow. Not wanting to endure the torture of having to listen to Parker moan around the house if and when he falls in love with Ellie and subsequently loses her like he did the last one, Roy decides to keep an eye on one Ellie Fitzsimmons. Roy's problem now is that he is the one who feels like doing a little milksop moaning around the house, for he's falling fast and furiously for Ellie.

The strength of Trouble in Paradise comes from the colorful and humorous characters, both primary and secondary. The protagonists are perfect romantic leads: Ellie is independent and feisty, yet knows she loves Roy and doesn't bother to fight that fact, and Roy is the most adorably surly hero I've ever had the pleasure to read about. Roy reminds me of a younger, cuter Archie Bunker and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that cranky men can be wonderfully sexy heroes too.

The secondary characters are just as amusing. From Uncle Ed who has an eccentric passion for apples, to Parker's besotted moaning over his love Clara (yet another amusing character), to Ike who talks incessantly about his beloved mama and her home-churned butter, the reader is never at a loss for interesting, hilarious people to read about. The quirks of their individual personalities are written so well that you can't help but smile throughout the whole novel.

This is the first Liz Ireland book I've read, but I'll be keeping my eye out for a sequel, and hopefully one that puts Ike in the spotlight this time. If Ireland can make a young Archie Bunker sexy, one can only imagine what she could do with a hero who obsesses over his beloved mama and her home-churned butter.

--Tina Engler


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