Still Hitched, Cowboy
by Leandra Logan
(Harl. Temp. #703, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-25803-8
**
If Still Hitched, Cowboy was ever made into a movie, I'd want it to be the last feature at the drive-in movies, showing so late that everybody would have gone home hours before. This is another story based on the fictitious singles magazine, Texas Men. While every couple involved with the magazine has ultimately gotten together, I would still be leery of a singles magazine with this kind of track record.

Texas rancher Matt Colter, nearly thirty, decides that it's time to settle down and begin his family . . . before he's too old to enjoy them. His main goal is to pick a wife far different from his first wife, Jenna, his childhood love, who turned into a spitfire and thwarted him at every turn. Even though ten years have passed, he's never forgotten the pain of her departure. He's willing to settle for a shallow relationship and will avoid the deeper emotions

Although he's rich and handsome, pickings are slim in his hometown, so he decides to place an ad in Texas Men. His ad generates lots of interest; he ultimately settles on Tiffany Sinclair, a young New York debutante. Although she is young, Tiffany will..... excel under his tutelage. Is it too much to expect a woman of his choosing to mature, to share his opinions?

Matt invites Tiffany and her mother, Sharon, to his ranch. It's a test to see if she'll be able to adapt to the difference in lifestyles, away from the distractions of the frivolous elite. Right before they arrive, Matt receives bad news from his grandfather – Matt's divorce from Jenna was never official. The grandfather, a wily old coot, has telegraphed Jenna, a kindergarten teacher in California, about the non-divorce and has asked her to come back to Texas. Jenna, believing that the telegram is from Matt, is ready for a second chance. She's never gotten over him and is delighted with what she thinks is a chance for a reconciliation.

When Matt finds out what Gramps has done, he's not a happy camper. He remembers his brief marriage to Jenna as one of turmoil. He's chosen Tiffany because she's Jenna's antithesis. When Jenna meets Tiffany, she's chagrined to think that Matt has picked Tiffany because she is fun, charming and easy to get along with. Here's his taunt to Jenna.

"You're just jealous because I've found somebody who'll do anything to please me." Why, he couldn't think of a single time Tiffany had balked at any of his suggestions or opinions. She was going to humor him, tease him and pamper him.

I don't like to give one and two-heart ratings. Oh, not because I'm particularly altruistic, but because these books have something so wrong, so off-key, so bothersome that it ruins the book for me. What's problematic about this story is Matt, a childish, unforgiving, indecisive, pious and pompous ass. Frankly, I found him detestable.

We know almost from the beginning that there's going to be a lot of saving face, characters hiding behind a facade of indifference. Is there an insurmountable wall of pride? For Matt, yes. Jenna comes across as the character who has undergone the most growth in their ten-year separation. She's suffering from a case of unrequited love. Is he suffering from intransigence, unwilling to forgive a young woman who ten years ago acted with immaturity and impetuosity? For most of the book, yes. He just can't let go of his anger.

Jenna and Matt's family are doing whatever they can to get Jenna and Matt back together, except be honest. Honesty may not work with Matt, though; trickery may be their best method. It takes a mature person to respond to honesty; maturity is another characteristic Matt is sadly lacking.

I found so many jarring notes in this book that I lost count. For example, Matt's soon-to-be fiancée comes on to him in front of his mother and young nieces and he doesn't see how tasteless the whole scene is. Or Matt deliberately walks in on Jenna while she's bathing and then blames her for inciting his lust! Then there is a thread involving Tiffany and her mother Sharon that comes completely out of left field and is handled with about as much finesse as a mother cutting wads of bubble gum from her kid's hair.

I did not like Still Hitched, Cowboy. The only thing that kept it from being a one-heart book is Jenna. She has my sympathy.

--Linda Mowery


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