One Hot Texan by Jane Sullivan
(Harlequin Tempt. #854, $3.99, PG-13) 0-373-25954-9
One Hot Texan starts with one of the plot devices that may put off some people. Despite having one of the improbable “have to get married to keep from getting cut out of the will” beginnings, Jane Sullivan presents a couple who each grow and change over the course of the six months of the story.

Cole McCallum is back in Coldwater, Texas, but not because he wants to be. When he was a senior in high school, his father went to jail and the court gave his grandmother custody of him. His life with his father had left a large chip on his shoulder, so he got a reputation as a troublemaker. He did come to love his grandmother with her patience and understanding, but his step-grandfather always thought he was trouble.

Cole left as soon as he could and made a success of himself as a real estate developer in Dallas. Then he was betrayed by his business partner and lost nearly everything. His last chance is to meet the stipulations of his grandmother’s will; he must be married in a couple of days and live and work on the family ranch for six months. If he does that, he will get the ranch free and clear.

Virginia White decides to celebrate her birthday by going to a country dance bar, something she has never done. She has spent her life taking care of her grasping, Bible-thumping, man-hating mother. Now that her mother is dead, Virginia wants to enjoy life. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to handle alcohol. She sees Cole and the alcohol makes her brave enough to ask him to dance. He feels sorry for her, dances with her, and ends up taking her home to keep her from getting into trouble. He realizes that, because of her obvious financial straights, she might agree to marry him, then divorce him at the end of the required six months if he promises her a financial settlement. She reluctantly agrees and then surprises Cole by refusing to have sex with him after the wedding.

I immediately liked Virginia’s ability to laugh at herself. She knows that she is hopelessly backward when it comes to relating to people. Her wry comments about expecting thunderbolts to hit her when she dresses a little sexy for the bar were wonderful.

Cole redeems himself many times by helping Virginia build up her self esteem. He despises the small town pettiness that he was subjected to when he first lived there and does his best to stop the same nastiness from hurting Virginia. When the women at the bank where Virginia works don’t believe that she has married Cole, he comes to her rescue in a very effective way.

There are a few time transitions that are a bit abrupt, but part of that could be the necessity of covering six months in just a little over 200 pages. Even so, watching Virginia go from a timid wallflower to a happy, enthusiastic woman in love makes up for them. Watching Cole learn that someone can love him is just the icing on the cake.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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