Linda Turner's, Christmas Lone-Star Style, is the latest installment in her "Lone Star Social Club" series. It is not a particularly memorable addition to this season's holiday reading line-up, but anyone who has read the earlier, better stories may be interested in this installment in the miniseries.
In Turner's series, the Social Club is an historic, post Civil War, San Antonio mansion, converted into eight apartments. Elderly Alice Truelove presides over the historic building as well as the lives and loves of its tenants. Earlier installments in the series have each involved an unmarried tenant finding love and happiness, often with Alice's involvement.
In Christmas Lone Star Style, the last remaining, large space in the building, the attic-ballroom, is being converted into another apartment. A few of the better scenes in the book involve one or another of the main characters in the attic dreaming or fantasizing about the space and its history.
Mitch Ryan is Alice's nephew. A wealthy wheeler-dealer bachelor living in Dallas, he responds to his aunt's plea for help managing her apartment building when she has to leave for an indefinite period. Alice reappears briefly at the end of this book, but really does not figure in it and may be missed by fans of the series.
The hero and heroine, Mitch Ryan and Phoebe Smith, have two things in common. They recognize and help people in trouble. Whether it's an old lady knocked down by a panicky crowd or an orphan, neither hesitate to do the right thing. They also have no interest in a long term relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Predictably, Phoebe has been hurt by a man, a user she believes to have been just like Mitch, and Mitch has experienced only women who are out to extract whatever they can from a man, especially financially.
At the beginning of the book Phoebe Smith is a successful executive secretary, living happily in an adults-only apartment in San Antonio. In rapid succession, she takes in her orphaned niece and nephew, is evicted from her apartment, loses her job due to the company's down-sizing, and turns over her life savings to a con artist who pretends to rent apartments in the Lone Star Social Club. All this leads to a big mix-up, then her becoming Mitch's on-site manager as he tries to fill in for Aunt Alice and run his own business, flying around Texas finalizing oil-lease deals. In short order, she and the kids are sharing Alice's apartment with Mitch, though reluctantly.
As I was reading, I felt a little out of place and time, almost as though I had stepped off a train in the wrong city or off a space shuttle on the wrong planet. Phoebe is a cleaning demon – organized, intelligent, creative and competent – so why is Mitch surprised each time she exhibits anything approaching intelligence and talent? Mitch thinks all single women are gold diggers – so why is Phoebe surprised when he wants to trade sex for a guarantee he'll pay her off when she stops living in? And what century was he born in anyway - Mitch heartlessly assures Phoebe it's no problem to move the orphans from San Antonio to Dallas and back again, keeping in sync with the ebb and flow of their developing relationship.
My advice is to start at the beginning of the series rather than the current installment. If you have read the earlier stories or the idea of a series involving single folks finding love through the magic of an old Texas mansion appeals, then take a chance on Christmas Lone-Star Style.