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Single in the Saddle
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
(Harl. Tempt. #695, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-25795-3
***
Single in the Saddle bases its premise on a mail order relationship. Texas Men, an upscale singles magazine, is responsible for introducing Daphne Proctor and Stony Arnett. Daphne, who's been corresponding with Stony, is giving up her life in Hawaii to move to Rio Verde, Texas, to marry this rancher she's written to and with whom she's fallen in love.

Wait a Texas minute! Daphne may think she's been corresponding with Stony, but it's really been his hired hands who've been writing the letters. The wranglers sense that this hard-working rancher is working too hard and is in jeopardy of becoming hardhearted. They know that the right woman will help Stony begin to enjoy life. That's why, out of more than 300 letter-writing women, they've chosen Daphne. They've overlooked one small detail; they haven't yet told Stony of Daphne's existence or her imminent arrival.

When Daphne arrives at the ranch, a calamity is in the making. Stony, still unaware of Daphne's reason for being at his ranch, mistakes her for a hooker, a gift from his men. From both their perspectives, a great night ensues. Daphne is none the wiser until the next morning, when a hundred dollars and a note from Stony open her eyes . . . in a hurry.

Stony, whose mother died when he was a child, decides that he'll never get married or have a family. That way he'll spare himself future heartache. He's so dead set against any kind of attachment that he won't even name the stray dog who wandered onto his property almost a year ago. The only conflict in this story is internal, with Stony pushing Daphne away, and her hoping that he'll recognize that he needs her. How adamant can he be about wanting to remain unattached if he makes love without protection, even though they'd been intimate thirty minutes earlier?

Two things make this story unique but not necessarily better. Daphne, an interior decorator, is a disciple of feng shui, an oriental philosophy, part of which concerns arranging spaces for optimum personal benefit. Feng shui is never completely explained. To stave off a drought, she gets Stony's men to build a waterfall in his front yard. Guess what? It rains. Stony remarks, "You rearranged the kitchen, and I noticed yesterday that beef prices went up." Being a Texan, I'd have to say that this whole plot line is a bunch of bull.

Daphne is also a born-again virgin, which "means that whatever experiences you've had with men in the past doesn't count anymore. You made a decision to keep yourself pure, and so you're a virgin from that moment on, until you find the man you intend to marry."

Understanding this philosophy is much easier for me than appreciating it. When Daphne and Stony first make love, here's her response. "For me the past is wiped away, and you are the first man I've ever known. Teach me about pleasure." If only starting new was that simple, instead of being portrayed as simplistic. Daphne regains her virginity, oh, about four times, I think. Abstinence is commendable, but pretending to wipe away all past experiences is not an activity I can take seriously or to which I can give any credence. I always thought you should learn from your mistakes, not forget them.

I can't recommend Single in the Saddle, but to rate it below a three would be unfair. Simply because I find feng shui and born-again virginity to be nonsensical, not everyone will. The second half of the story does pick up. Stony and Daphne's relationship becomes the central theme, while feng shui and born-again virginity are merely background inferences. You're on your own with this one.

--Linda Mowery


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