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Manhunting in Montana
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
(Harlequin Temptation 677, 3.75, PG-13)
ISBN 0-373-25777-5
Manhunting in Montana is the third of the Manhunting books, whose theme is, "She's got a plan--to find herself a man." The first was Manhunting in Memphis #669, followed by Manhunting in Manhattan #673. To me, the series is being diluted with each successive book. I really liked the first one, found the second one enjoyable and this one is a hit or miss.

In Memphis, the heroine was trying to find a husband to allow her mother to retire, an altruistic motive at best. Manhattanhad a heroine who wanted to keep her father's company solvent and was prepared to sacrifice herself. In Montana, we've got a heroine who, very simply put, wants a man for sex. Legal, married sex.

New York photographer Cleo Griffin makes a very good living photographing hunks and turning the results into beefcake calendars. Her latest endeavor will be a cowboy calendar, so she's going to Montana to stay on a combination dude/cattle ranch. She's just finished a calendar shoot and knows that being around so many virile men will drive her into lust overload. Tired of being alone, Cleo wants to find a cowboy husband who will consent to meet her every few weeks, at a midway point, to scratch her itch. I like modern women, but this cold blooded approach threw me a bit.

Rancher Tom McBride, although he needs money to keep his ranch out of bankruptcy, decides that he's not so desperate that he'll be part of the calendar. His men can model, but Tom will keep his distance. Years before Tom was married to a New York model and knows how the photo industry works. He's also knows to be leery of New York women, of which Cleo is a prime example.

Cleo is attracted to Tom but knows that he won't be a malleable type. Tom wants a committed relationship and a real wife, not some scheduled sex. Want to guess who wins in the end? This story has one overriding fault that is evident from the beginning to the very end. It is predictable. No surprises, no bang for your bucks, no lagniappe, nothing extra. The following is a short test. Choose your answer and see if you can determine the route this book will follow.

Cleo wants a part time husband. She will
(a) get one or (b) become a traditional wife.

Tom wants a child. He will
(a) remain childless or (b) become a traditional father.

Tom needs an infusion of cash for his ranch. He will
(a) lose his ranch or (b) allow Cleo to help him, grousing about his manly pride all the while.

Cleo will decide to reside in
(a) New York City or (b) the wilds of Montana.

This story is so predictable and formulaic that we could plot the results on a graph . . . before reading the story. I didn't care for Cleo at all. The fact that her long held goals toppled so easily attests to their lack of real importance in her life. Makes me wonder if anything substantial has been important to this woman.

If you've read the first two Manhunting books, be prepared for a let down. I can only hope that our trips to Miami and Mississippi will be worth the time and money.

--Linda Mowery

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