Love You Forever by Janice Kaiser
(Harl. Temp. #702, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25802-X
***
Love You Forever is the first in the 'Cowboy Club' series. Our fictitious Cowboy Club was a gathering place for movie stars when they came to Red Rock, Colorado, to make Western movies. The club is left and is still open, but the movie set has become a ghost town of sorts, with only the movie facades left.

On her way to Red Rock, Colorado, to do a feasibility study to determine if the old movie town can be turned into a successful theme park, Erica Ross spots a cowboy standing on the side of the road, holding a gas can. Showing city smarts, she won't give him a ride, but offers to tell the people where he works that he's stranded. "I'm trying to be humane without being stupid." Wow, somebody with common sense. However, common sense departs when she does give the gorgeous hunk with the killer smile a ride. Good thing this was a romance instead of a mystery or I might have been worried. All this build-up of her using her smarts, and Wham! – she lets a sexy stranger in her car.

The sexy stranded cowboy, Clay McCormick, turns out to be the owner of the ranch where Erica is going. Clay's grandmother, a former Hollywood star, wants to turn a nearby ghost town where movies were made into a theme park. While Clay doesn't support the idea, he's not vehement in his opposition. He just likes the West the way it is, uncrowded and without tourists overrunning the area. If Granny has her way, all that may change.

In earlier reviews I've alluded to my concern for putting two characters together who in real life would probably be incompatible: the animal trainer and the person who's allergic to pets or the artist and the woman who's color blind or . . . well, we've all read these improbabilities before. Here we've got the same kind of situation with a slight twist. Erica has Hepatitis C, a disease for which there is no known cure. She's decided that she'll live her life alone, with no kids and no stress. Boy, don't those two go hand in hand!

What makes this somewhat familiar is that Clay's first love died of leukemia. Now he's reluctant to put his heart on the line again, knowing that Erica does have a fatal illness. Erica is the biggest deterrent in their blossoming relationship. Dumped by her fiancé when he found out about her illness, she doesn't want that kind of ultimate rejection again, nor does she want to put Clay through another trauma. I was relieved when she did disclose her illness before it was allowed to be the Big Misunderstanding. One of the reasons this book didn't jell for me was the seeming ease when she walked away from Clay. She has a much harder edge.

Erica's harder edge is noticeable when she's around Clay. He's down to earth, witty, and an all-around guy. He has a habit of quoting parts of the Cowboy code, pithy sayings that I think are made up for the various occasions.

Rule six. 'If you've got to choose between ridin' a bull and arguing with a stubborn woman, chose the bull.'

Rule nine of the Cowboy code goes like this–' Climbing in the saddle's easy. The hard part's staying in it until you get where you're going.'

Rule one of the Cowboy code is revealed at exactly the right time–'When you find the woman of your dreams, never, ever let her go.'

These are always uttered with that "Aw, shucks, ma'am" grin.

While I liked Clay very much, Erica's characterization was too dull, too flat for me to really enjoy this story. Had she been more interesting, less morose and drawn with more detail, then this story easily would have been a recommended read.

--Linda Mowery


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