Lone Star Christmas

Midnight Rider

Once in Paris

Paper Rose

The Savage Heart

Matt Caldwell: Texas Tycoon
by Diana Palmer
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1297, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24297-2
I'd suggest re-titling this book Matt Caldwell: Texas Pig but that would be rather insulting to any porker living south of the Oklahoma border. Title or no, the guy's a swine, though. And how is it that authors can keep churning out these "hero as arrogant, sulking, insulting Neanderthal" types of romances? Isn't this a new millennium? Why are we getting stuff in 2000 that was a bit hard to swallow even back in the early 1980's?

But I digress into rant. Let's turn to the book. Matt Caldwell is a gazillionaire Texan who owns cattle ranches around the world. (But not in South America -- he didn't approve of the rainforest slash-and-burn there, so instead he bought huge chunks of land in northern Australia, which apparently has an ecology nobody cares about). His mother abandoned him as a small boy, he was raised by friends, he distrusts all women, yada, yada. For all that, most people describe him as a nice guy.

Then he meets Leslie Murry, who has come to work in his headquarters under the wing of her friend Ed, who is also Matt's cousin of sorts. Leslie is twenty-three, and six years ago was the victim of a traumatic assault that left her with a shattered leg that never healed properly. She's afraid of men. She's particularly afraid of this overpowering guy named Matt.

Matt's nose is out of joint that this woman backs away from him. Women always fall all over Matt, so what's the deal? She must be faking it. She must really want him, and the scared-virgin routine is all an act. Okay, then that gives him free rein to insult her, call her a slut, make cruel remarks about her limp, try to seduce her and leave her flat. Right?

Leslie decides that she's not so scared of Matt after all, especially after his hard mouth comes crashing down upon her tender lips or whatever. No, now she's attracted to this guy. Then he starts his "you're a tramp" routine, and Leslie decides to leave. Then she decides to stay. Then she decides to leave. Nope, she'll stay again. This woman needed a revolving door on her office. I actually liked her at first, but her refusal to tell Matt to back off was a major irritant. (On second thought, maybe that would have been impossible. What's she going to say? "Back off, Buster, I don't want you near me. Well, maybe I do. Kiss me again.")

There were a number of other plot elements that really had me groaning. For instance, Leslie explains that, when her leg was shattered by the bullet that killed one of her attackers, the emergency room doctor refused to set it properly because he thought she was a slut who had caused an innocent man's death and got what she deserved. Huh? This comes up several times in the story, and nobody bats an eye. Matt doesn't even pursue the idea of medical malpractice.

And then there was the rich Houston socialite that Matt squires around. Of course, she's a witch, and of course, Matt insists that Leslie is lying when she tells him about it.

Matt eventually finds out the truth and undergoes a lightning transformation to remorseful -- after he slams out of Leslie's apartment, gets drunk, and tears up a neighborhood bar. Even reformed, this guy's pretty low on the Mature-o-Meter.

I can almost hear Diana Palmer's fans screaming from here. If this sort of book floats your boat, fine, have at it. But romance authors need to change with the times, and Matt Caldwell: Texas Tycoon is a dated romance that isn't a comfortable read in any way. It's a little early in the year to put in a vote for Worst Romance of 2000, but I'm sorely tempted. Save your money.

--Cathy Sova

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