The Rancher & the Amnesiac Bride
by Joan Elliott Pickart
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1204, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24204-2
Conventional wisdom has it that you should never judge a book by its cover. In romance, that might be extended to "never judge a story by its title." However, in the case of The Rancher and the Amnesiac Bride, conventional wisdom can be ignored. If you can stomach the idiotic title, which by the way is misleading, you may rate this at least a passable read. I couldn't and didn't.

Josie Wentworth, of the wealthy Oklahoma Wentworths, is distraught over the death of her older brother. His best friend claims he's dead, but the body was never recovered. Uh huh. Can you say "series" here? Anyway, while going through his personal effects (wallet, keys, ring just how would these be recovered when the body wasn't?) Josie finds a diamond ring and a letter to a mysterious "Sabrina Jensen", in care of a Max Carter, of the Single C ranch.

Since Josie's main purpose in life is organizing charity balls (she's been meaning to look into a career of sorts, since she'll come into her trust fund in a year follow that logic if you can), she has no problem dumping everything and hieing herself off to meet Max Carter and find Sabrina. She finds Max, all right, and he's not the elderly, bowlegged cowpoke that she's imagined. He's a hunky rancher, and he has no interest in helping Josie find his cousin Sabrina. But golly, she's a pretty thing, is Josie.

When Josie falls into a hole and smacks her head on a rock, bringing on amnesia, Max decides not to tell her who she is. His reasoning? Her rich family might sue his ass off because she got hurt on his property, and he'd lose the ranch. What a guy. So he hides Josie's purse and puts up with her for a month, and they inevitable find themselves in the sack.

Of course, Josie is going to discover the purse, regain her memory, find out about Max's duplicity, run off in a squalling fit, Max will come after her, and then Max will get hurt and it will be Josie's turn to take care of him. Not to mention what will happen after the one and only time they have unprotected sex. Good lord, is there anything in this book we haven't read a hundred times before?

I could almost forget the tired plot if these weren't two people I detested so much. Josie might as well have a sign around her neck that reads "Rich, Useless, and Silly". Max is equally non-dimensional. He thinks he cares for Josie. But golly, she's rich and he's poor. So he can't have her.

Add inane dialogue and flat writing, and you have a book that didn't satisfy on any level. Would any person actually speak like Josie does to her own grandfather?

"You know that the interest from the trust allows me to donate my time to my favorite causes. Right now, though, I have no enthusiasm for tending to the details of a charity ball."

Sure he knows it. That's why she has to tell him all about it. Right.

All in all, a rather torturous read, and a real disappointment from an author whose previous works I have mostly enjoyed.

By the way, this is the first in a five-book series called Follow That Baby. The next one has the equally silly title of The Daddy and the Baby Doctor. Apparently romance readers aren't well-read enough to understand "obstetrician." I'll bet they understand "patronizing," though.

If The Rancher and the Amnesiac Bride fits the bill for you, by all means, happy trails as you embark on the series. This reader is more inclined to let the baby get away.

--Cathy Sova

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