A Girl, a Guy, and a Lullaby
by Debrah Morris
(Silh. Romance #1549, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-19549-4
***
A Girl, a Guy, and a Lullaby is a cheerful piece of fluff featuring the requisite gurgling tot on the cover, which is nothing more than chain-yanking on the part of the marketing department since the baby doesn’t make an appearance until page 161. (If you’re goo-goo over baby stories, it’s only fair to warn you.) Marketing concerns aside, the hero is hunky and the heroine smart, or at least smart-mouthed.

Ryanne Reiger is on her way back to Brushy Creek, Oklahoma, and it’s hardly the homecoming splash she once dreamed of making. Broke, very pregnant, and divorced is bad enough. But what really rankles Ryanne is her failed career as a country music star. Oh, the girl can fiddle a tune, not that anyone in Nashville ever noticed. Now she’s going back to the one place she can feel safe - her beloved foster mother’s home. Birdie will help her set things right, if anyone can.

Ryanne is dumped off the bus at night, and shoeless, thanks to her swollen feet. As she stands in the dark wondering where to find a bathroom, Tom Hunnicutt appears. Tom is an ex-rodeo rider whose career ended with an injury. He was also the object of a king-sized crush on Ryanne’s part back in high school. But Tom had a perfect girlfriend, (whom Ryanne refers to as "Mariclare-with-the-Perfect-Hair") and Ryanne assumes he’s long married. When Tom gives Ryanne a ride out to Birdie’ place, Ryanne finds out differently.

Tom isn’t looking for a relationship. Neither is Ryanne. They find they like each other’s company, though, so they propose a friendship. Of course, love has other ideas.

There isn’t a lot to dislike in this story, but it may not stick with you for very long, either. Tom is a bit on the broody side, which has its charm. His perfect girlfriend finally dumped him after a ten-year engagement (who could blame her?) and now he’s at loose ends. His portrayal as a man who’s lost his rodeo dreams is heartfelt. Ryanne isn’t about to let him wallow in self-pity over his accident, either.

Ryanne is a bit more problematic, mostly because much of her commentary seems over-the-top. She’s got a one-liner for everything, and it reduces her dialogue to a forced sitcom style in some places. Her pregnancy is inconsistent, too. When we first meet her, she moans that she’s big as a house; there are plenty of further references to her waddling posture and huge size. When Ryanne gets the chance to play her fiddle at a local picnic near the end of her pregnancy, however, “despite her advance pregnancy, she skipped lightly around the stage”. The mental picture this conjured up wasn’t even close to comfortable.

However, the “failed dreams” aspect was a nice one, and it lent realism to the tale. Both Ryanne and Tom have to face some home truths and do a bit of critical self-examination in order to move on with their lives. The goal here - putting old dreams to rest and finding new ones - gives the story a solid foundation. And Debrah Morris is an experienced enough author to make it work well.

The romance between Ryanne and Tom feels genuine. The deepening of their feelings takes both by surprise; it’s a nice touch. If you like a romance where the hero and heroine start out as friends, A Girl, a Guy, and a Lullaby is a sweet confection that might be just right for a cool fall evening.

--Cathy Sova


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