"Fortune's of Texas"

Millionaire on Her Doorstep

The Heiress & the Sheriff
by Stella Bagwell
Silhouette, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-65037-X
As one who has read every book with the name “Fortune” in it since the first “Fortune’s Children” tome was published three years ago, I am puzzled as to why the series set in Texas does not seem to be working as well as the previous effort. I admit to being somewhat uncertain as to how the whole process of doing one of these ongoing sagas operates. I know that there is a “book” prepared by the editors which provides the general outline of the underlying plot. What I don’t know is how much freedom the authors have to devise their own stories and characters.

This being said, I can only conclude that the underlying plot(s) of the “Fortunes of Texas” series is not as interesting as that which under girded the “Fortune’s Children” books. There was something charming about the family matriarch playing dead in order to uncover the villain who was seeking to wreck the Fortune fortune and who, at the same time, could observe how her bequests impacted upon all her young relatives.

The kidnapping of Baby Bryan Fortune and the attempts to recover the missing child seem somehow more intrusive and unconnected with the stories that are central to the individual books.

The Heiress and the Sheriff is a case in point. Here we have an all too familiar “amnesia” story with an all too familiar instant attraction component with an all too familiar “I won’t fall in love because a woman (or several women) betrayed me in the past” hero. Was Bagwell given this plot and then told to write a story about it or is this her own idea? Not knowing how the process really works, I don’t know who to blame for a basically unsatisfying romance.

Gabrielle Carter is driving down the road to the Fortune’s ranch when a spooked horse runs out in front of her. In swerving to miss the horse, she runs off the road and into a tree. She staggers away from her car and then it explodes and burns. Except for an old Bible, everything else in the car burns. When Maggie Fortune reaches her, she has lost her memory, although she does know her name.

Sheriff Wyatt Grayhawk arrives on the scene and takes the dazed woman to the hospital. He is immediately suspicious of her claim not to remember why she was on the road to the ranch. Perhaps his suspicion is not unwarranted; after all, since the kidnapping, any stranger with a strange story could be trying to con the Fortunes. But Wyatt sure is mean to the lovely Gabrielle. And, of course, she immediately is attracted to the stern sheriff. Right.

Since it was Maggie’s horse which caused the accident, the Fortunes insist on taking Gabrielle in until she recovers. Her worming her way into the Fortunes’ good graces causes the sheriff to become even more suspicious and to continue to treat her as a potential criminal. Which, of course, leads Gabrielle to be even more attracted to the stern, handsome sheriff. Right.

Despite his suspicions, guess what? Wyatt is attracted to Gabrielle. But he doesn’t want to be. Still, he does find her appealing. So, he takes her out to dinner and, well, you get the picture.

While this romance is going on, we have all the stuff relating to Baby Bryan going on. The kidnapper leaves a ransom note, but doesn’t pick up the ransom or turn over the baby. Claudia, Bryan’s mother, is mad at her husband because the baby the kidnappers mistook for Bryan turns out to be his son. There is the ongoing divorce case of Ryan who wants to divorce the nasty Sophie so he can marry his true love, Lily. And so it goes.

Gabrielle’s true identity and her reasons for being at the Fortune Ranch are finally revealed, however improbable they seemed to this reader. And we’re ready for another installment.

I rather imagine that the underlying plot of the “Fortunes of Texas” book might have worked in a single volume or maybe even a five or six part series. But I must admit to the feeling that everything is dragging on too long. However, do not fear. I will soldier on with my monthly reports. I’m in too deep to back out now.

--Jean Mason

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