Baby, Baby, Baby

Bandera's Bride

Bluer Than Velvet

Just One Look

The Marriage Knot

Moonglow, Texas

Sarah's Knight

Still Mr. & Mrs.

Storming Paradise

My Hero by Mary McBride
(Warner, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-446-611126-3
This story features an amusingly realistic heroine, a hero anyone would love, and a soon-to-be ex-wife who is way too easy to despise. Why’d he marry this annoying bitch? And why isn’t she savvy enough to hang onto him even if she is self-centered and mercenary? Every smart woman knows the best fashion accessory isn’t always by Chanel or Gucci. Check out what Demi Moore’s got dangling on her arm these days.

Holly Hicks is finally getting the break she’s been dreaming about. She’s been chosen to produce a special on VIP Channel for hero week. The downside is that she has to return to Texas, the state where she was born and raised and hates passionately. Her assignment is to profile Calvin Griffin, the Secret Service agent who was shot while protecting the President. During his period of recuperation, Cal has returned home. He and his sister Ruthie jointly own a ranch outside Honeycomb, Texas. Ruthie sees the ranch as holding her back from her dream of owning a gourmet restaurant and wants to sell out. Cal is resisting because at this time in his life he has nowhere else to go.

Cal’s recovery has not gone smoothly. Not only is he having difficulty getting back to peak physical condition, he has lingering mental effects from where the bullet grazed his head and from the metal plate in his skull. Cal is uninterested in being the topic of a television special, but the White House is making the arrangements.

Diana, Cal’s wife of a few weeks, packed up all his belongings and shipped them to Honeycomb. A publicist and too physically perfect for words, she was repelled by the seizures he suffered in the hospital. She’s filed for divorce.

Honeycomb is Holly’s nightmare - small-town and isolated and, worst of all, in Texas. She resolves to finish up her assignment ASAP and get the hell out of Dodge. Gradually, however, she begins to see Cal as a hero, not for what he’s done but for what he is.

I am recommending My Hero primarily for one reason - Cal is one of the most appealing heroes I’ve read in some time. It takes Holly a few days to fall in love with him. She must be a slow study. This guy’s got everything - physique, looks, charm, character, a great sense of humor, and a ‘64 Thunderbird convertible. (The scene where Holly and Cal dupe a potential buyer for the ranch is laugh-out-loud funny.) And an ex-wife who’s dumping him.

Diana represents everything Cal doesn’t need - disloyalty, egotism, shallow values, and a career that means more to her than home and hearth. Holly, of course, is the antidote to this witch. Because Diana is such a caricature, she comes off as ludicrous. The eventual explanation of why she and Cal got married is off-kilter - Cal is portrayed as too solid and responsible to have engaged in something so tacky.

Holly’s aversion to Texas and everything Texan might seem over the top to some readers, but since I share a similar aversion to small towns in another Southern state, I can identify with every emotion. Holly’s been striving to be a success in her chosen field -she’s desperately afraid that something is going to derail her now that success is within her grasp. Her views on small towns and people in general inject a cheerful tone into the narrative.

There’s an underlying message in My Hero: small town equals wholesome and good, big city equals superficial and bad. Goodness and happiness aren’t so easily categorized, and where they’re to be found isn’t so cut and dried. All but the most naive reader, however, will be convinced almost from the beginning that eventually Holly is going to wise up and realize that happiness resides in a small town in Texas.

Of course, a woman might be willing to make a lot of compromises for a hero like Cal.

--Lesley Dunlap

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