That McCloud Woman

Hard Lovin' Man by Peggy Moreland
(Silh. Desire #1270, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-76270-4
Hard Lovin' Man is the fifth book in Peggy Moreland's Texas Brides series. Here's the description from the back blurb. Come on down to the McCloud family ranch -- ‘cause there's no place like Texas for a wedding. As with most books in a family series, knowing some prior history is often useful. As it was, I was frequently in a room full of strangers and was struggling to know who everybody was.

Lacey Cline has known for two years who her daddy is, and she's finally gotten up her nerve to confront the ol' coot. She wants to know why he abandoned her and her mother before he ever even knew Lacey. She's a barrel racer who's been in Fort Worth at the rodeo. Her dad's ranch, Double-Cross Heart Ranch, is close, and she decides that it's time to drive there to demand answers. Seems she's too late; Lucas McCloud has been dead for thirteen years.

Lacey hadn't known that she has half-sisters, sisters who by varying degrees welcome this new sister they hadn't known about, either. Lacey may tell herself that she's staying while her horse heals, but this newfound family is too compelling, too important to her to leave so easily. Another reason she's staying for a while is Travis Cordell.

We first meet Travis as he makes a tempestuous entry. Travis' twin brother Jack is marrying a McCloud cousin, Alayna. Their story is told in That McCloud Woman. Travis arrives in a black T-shirt and camouflage pants causing Lacey to feel more comfortable about her wedding attire of jeans and boots. As the minister intones the question of anyone objecting to the marriage, that's Travis' cue to step up and object. His reasons seem flimsy, but then I haven't read the other books and know nothing of their history. Here's a case where more backstory would have helped.

Travis has a deep dark secret, a past sin so grievous that he feels that it makes him unfit to have any kind of ongoing relationship. When this secret was revealed, it became something I call the Peggy Lee Syndrome. Peggy Lee had a hit song called, "Is That All There Is?", with a line that goes And as I sat there, watching, I had the feeling that something was missing. I don't know what, but when it was all over, I said to myself, "Is that all there is? That's truly how I felt when Travis' secret, a secret that had ruled and almost ruined his life, was revealed. What happened was an accident, totally unintentional and caused no lasting ill effects on anybody but Travis. My thoughts on this whole plot line: what's the big deal?

Lacey's mother makes an appearance and comes off as a money-grubbing witch. Lacey and the story deserved better, deserved a character who wasn't quite so vitriolic and one-dimensional.

Hard Lovin' Man is a book that fits perfectly into my idea of a three-heart rating. It's a good book, but it's nothing extraordinary. I've read many that are worse but in a world filled with books, it's not one that I could suggest spending much time on. Now, if you've read the other Texas Bride books, then your reaction may be much different. If that's the case, go for it.

--Linda Mowery

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