The Impossible Texan by Allie Shaw
(Ivy, $6.50, G) ISBN 0-8041-1964-3
With an immature heroine and an improbable premise, I was not impressed with The Impossible Texan.

Marlena Maxwell is the eldest daughter of Senator Jason Maxwell. The year is 1888 and Maxwell is struggling to win a third term in the U.S. Senate. When his campaign manager of 12 years dies suddenly, Marlena expects her father to give her the job.

To her shock, Maxwell - without consulting her - hires a (gasp) man for the job. Even worse, to everyone’s consternation, he’s a (shudder) Yankee, educated at (horrors) Harvard. Feelings still run high over the wrongs done by those savage Northerners during the Civil War.

To the rest of us, Tyler Hamilton III seems a nice enough young man. Fresh from his political science studies at university, he is the scion of a wealthy and highly successful family. He has left Boston for the chance to prove himself independently of his well-known family’s legacy and influence.

Naturally, Marlena hates Tyler on sight. Naturally, he finds her irresistible. What a surprise. Have you got a pretty good handle on the plot? Excellent, we’ll move on to the characters.

Marlena is a 24-year-old girl, in a State where women would not be allowed to vote for another 30 years, in a society where pouring tea and supervising servants was considered the apex of an upper class female’s abilities. Yet it astonished the supposedly astute Marlena that her father would not ignore the chauvinism of his generation and the good-ol’-boy network of his home State to give her a high-profile position directing his campaign.

Hmm, well, actually that could be pretty interesting. So, what qualifications has the author given her, so we can support her unfairly thwarted ambitions? Well, let’s see. The deceased campaign manager was a wimp who “let her have her own way.” Well, okay, but during the previous campaign, when she’d have been, let’s see, 20, the author tells us she, hmm, I’m sure there’s something in here… oh yes, she organized a barbecue and wrote her father’s acceptance speech. Impressive qualifications, indeed. No wonder she’s pissed.

Having been so unfairly passed over, now, of course, she must show both her father and Tyler that she is indispensable to the campaign. This she does by name-calling, pouting, sulking, door slamming, sarcasm, insults, rejecting Tyler’s attempt to include her in the campaign as patronizing, and whining that the tasks her father does give her are beneath her abilities.

And, of course, although the choice of campaign manager was entirely her father’s decision and despite the fact that he clearly did not think it necessary to consult her before hiring Tyler, she blames Tyler totally for ruining her life. I don’t care how smart she is; I wouldn’t have let this spoiled brat run a table at a church bazaar much less an important political campaign.

Inexplicably, all of this is wildly attractive to Tyler. As a result, I’m inclined to think that if her highly touted brains are overrated, his are mostly in his pants.

There are a couple of melodramatic subplots whose purpose, as far as I could tell, was to give everybody something to do in the second half of the book. At the mid-way point Marlena simply stops fighting her attraction to Tyler. Suddenly they’re meeting in the library at midnight for clandestine cuddling and honorably resisting the temptation to do a lot more.

The tension between the hero and heroine pretty much disappears at this point, but we’ve got a book to fill so we need a family crisis and a political intrigue that threatens reputations and jeopardizes the outcome of the election. I’m sure it was all intended to be emotionally wrenching and highly charged, but mostly it was just unconvincing. Tyler and Marlena had already decided their love would prevail no matter what, so the subplots end up as filler with no significant impact on the relationship.

If you like temperamental heroines who spend a lot of time tapping their toes and drumming their fingers in annoyance, please, knock yourself out. Otherwise, you might want to look a little further down the bookshelf.

--Judi McKee

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