The Playboy's Own Miss Prim
by Mindy Neff
(Harl. American #834, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16834-9
The Playboy's Own Miss Prim is the second book in the “Bachelors of Shotgun Ridge” series about a group of four matchmaking old men trying to bring in more women to marry the bachelors of Shotgun Ridge, Montana. A playboy rancher, a preacher's daughter, and a secret baby are the focus of this pleasant story.

Ethan Callahan agrees to participate in a bachelor auction planned by the four old men trying to save Shotgun Ridge. He has no intention of settling down, but he cares about the town that accepted the three abandoned Callahan brothers. He is the last bachelor up for bid and is purchased by a pretty woman who arrives late to the auction. When he talks with her after the show is over, she informs him that she is not purchasing him for herself but for his toddler daughter, Katie.

Dora Watkins she tells Ethan that his daughter is from a one-night stand he had with her friend, Amanda. Dora had promised Amanda on her deathbed that she would tell Ethan about Katie and try to get him to take responsibility. Dora loves Katie like her own daughter and would like to adopt her, but knows she must stand by her promise. Because of the playboy stories she has heard, she expects that it will be easy to get Ethan to sign over his rights to Katie.

What Dora does not realize is that Ethan will not abandon any child of his. He has too many scars from his mother's abandonment. Dora tells Ethan that she plans to stay with him for a month to give him time to adjust to a daughter, but her plan is to find good reasons to take Katie away from him. Ethan quickly learns that taking care of a baby is a lot harder than he expected, but he surprises Dora by sticking with it and becoming attached to his child. Dora also becomes attached to Ethan and decides that she would like to become part of his life. She decides to seduce him. He is very tempted, but the fact that she is a preacher's daughter keeps him from following through with his normal playboy moves.

Ms. Neff throws in a few interesting twists to the story. Ethan shares the ranch and ranch house with his two brothers. All of them are incredibly neat. Dora is the one who is messy. The description of the cowboys politely cleaning up after Dora blithely spills and dribbles food and drink all over the spotless kitchen is quite funny. Dora also is not the stereotypical preacher's daughter. She has her own money from her wealthy grandfather, she dresses in tight jeans and skimpy tops, and although not very experienced with men, she does her best to seduce Ethan.

Ethan is portrayed as a fun-loving cowboy with a strong sense of honor learned from his adopted father. He doesn't think he is good enough for Dora because as a very young boy, he had to steal to keep his two younger brothers fed. None of the boys have the same father and Ethan doesn't think his low background would be good for a preacher's daughter. Ethan's constant referral to Dora as a preacher's kid became irritating after a while because she didn't do anything to come across as prudish. This seemed to only be there as a way to keep their relationship from getting physical too early in the story.

Neff's descriptions of how difficult it can be to take care of a baby are very realistic. At one point, Katie starts to choke on a stereo knob and the scene was heart stopping.

If you like secret baby books, The Playboy's Own Miss Prim is worth reading. It is nothing extraordinary, but will leave a smile on your face.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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