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How To Catch a Cowboy
by Karen Toller Whittenburg
(Harl. American #772, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16772-5
Karen Toller Whittenburg has what I consider a special author's voice, one that speaks to me in a way that I enjoy, admire and appreciate. Her dry, sophisticated humor appeals to me. So do her relaxed characters, the way her plots flow smoothly from scene to scene, her easy style of storytelling and her plots that feature ordinary people with extraordinary charm. Her latest story lived up to my expectations, which makes it a delight.

Kurt McCauley is drowning his sorrows at the local saloon. He's just returned to Fortune City, Nevada, after finding fame and fortune on the rodeo circuit, only to discover that his ladylove married someone else two weeks ago. Now you've got to consider that he's had ample opportunity to propose but hasn't. He and his buddies are having a great time getting drunk, and all the while bragging about how Kurt is such a good catch that his old girlfriend was dumb to let him go. This good natured drinking leads to a raffle. All the women in the bar are invited to buy a chance to win Kurt. He'll marry the winner. Yep, these guys are good and plastered.

Emily Dawson, the sister of the one who got away, rarely comes to the Silver Dollar Cowboy Saloon but picks tonight to witness the supreme idiocy of men. She's known Kurt for years and watched as he and her sister fell in and out of love. Truth be told, she's always had an unacknowledged crush on him. When the winner of the raffle is announced and it's a woman who cheated by drawing out her own name, the woman who's looking for more community property and a fourth husband, Emily feels a prickle of unease. Even though Kurt is a major pain in the patootie, she's concerned that he will marry the raffle-winning bimbo.

Emily, as the club soda drinker, is commandeered to drive Kurt, the bimbo and the assorted drunkards who comprise the wedding party to Las Vegas, knowing that she's going to be forced to intervene. She keeps Kurt from marrying the bimbo by marrying him herself. As he snores on their wedding bed, she's busy making plans for a hasty annulment. The fly in their ointment is a vintage 1965 Mustang convertible, a prize that the newlyweds have won from a local Vegas radio station. Both want the car and know that they don't have the fortitude to give it back.

True to form, they make a bet. They've got to live together for two weeks, being together morning, noon and night. The first one to cry Uncle loses the car. This fun-filled two weeks display Ms. Whittenburg's immense talent. We're alternately charmed, baffled, surprised and captivated with Emily and Kurt. He'll be spending most days at her western clothing store, and she'll be helping him work as an animal trainer. His Jack Russell terrier, Melba, and his talented horse Hank are unusual, but entertaining secondary characters.

Here's what happens when Emily first meets the four-legged characters.

"Melba doesn't like women, "he whispered by way of an excuse. "So we won't tell her you're my w-i-f-e."
"Does she know she's a d-o-g?"
"That's a big n-o. Hank tries to tell her from time to time, but she knows better than to listen to him. After all, he's a —"
"—h-o-r-s-e?" Emily supplied.
"—horse," Kurt said. "No point in trying to hide it from him. He knows how to spell."

Their committed relationship takes a while to develop. Kurt, knowing that she hates to get up early, takes great pleasure in waking Emily up by six A.M. Of course she has her ways of reprisal that are as wickedly devious as his. These two have known each other since they were teenagers and are taking their time in readjusting their thinking. Their teasing relationship develops slowly into a caring one. This is love based on mutual respect and understanding, a gradual change that we're lucky to witness.

How to Catch a Cowboy is a fun, delightful, light-hearted category book. For the time that it takes you to read it, my guess is that you'll be highly entertained and pleasantly surprised at how nice it is to read a book that's angst-free and filled with high energy. I felt good for a long time after I finished this book. That kind of recommendation is hard to come by.

--Linda Mowery

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