Your Cheatin’ Heart
by Nancy Bartholomew
(Harper, $5.99, NV) ISBN 0-06-101409-5
****
Nancy Bartholomew is the author of two previous books, Miracle Strip and Drag Strip, starring the witty and amusing exotic dancer Sierra Lavotini. In Your Cheatin’ Heart, she introduces a new and equally enjoyable heroine, Maggie Reid. Maggie’s unusual approach to life’s trials and tribulations takes the form of quoting (in a deep country accent) the many proverbs she remembers hearing from her mother while growing up. In this way, she is able to shove the troubles she encounters out of her path and entertain her readers at the same time.

Maggie’s bravery and indomitable spirit allow her to reshape her life after her husband, Vernell Spivey, comes home drunk on his fortieth birthday and announces he is divorcing her. Even when Maggie’s rebellious fifteen-year-old daughter, Sheila, decides mom is too strict and moves in with daddy and his new trophy wife, she is able to dry her eyes, pick herself up, and get on with her life.

Maggie goes in search of her dreams and leaves the day-to-day operations of her beauty shop to her partner to become the lead country western singer at the Golden Stallion Club. In the middle of a song one night, she looks up and falls in love with a tall, lanky, blue-eyed cowboy, but he disappears before she is finished singing. Yet fate takes a hand when she meets him again at the police station where he is, unfortunately, the detective in charge of the murder of her ex-brother-in-law, Jimmy Spivey, and Maggie is the prime suspect.

Jimmy had been shot in her house, her gun is missing, and it appears to be the murder weapon. To complicate matters, Maggie’s daughter is acting strangely silent and her ex-husband is drinking again and talking in riddles. And Jimmy’s widow, Roxanne is on the warpath because she thinks Jimmy and Maggie had been planning to run off together.

In the meantime, the chemistry between Maggie and Detective Marshall Weathers is very hot, but he considers her the prime suspect so dating seems to be out of the question. It appears that “the man she wants, wants her, but he wants her for murder.” Consequently, Maggie decides she is the only person looking out for her own interests and starts her own investigation.

Your Cheatin’ Heart illustrates a modern, dysfunctional family’s ability to work together in a crisis and form a supportive and cohesive unit. Vernell and Maggie still share their most important asset, Sheila, who outweighs any old baggage or squabbles they might have. Furthermore, although Sheila may have moved in with her dad and has some bad, teenage attitudes, she still loves, needs, and is loyal to both her parents.

Words like zany, unpredictable, and hilarious come to mind when describing this book, along with strength, tenacity, honor, and common sense. The book moves so quickly that I wanted it to last longer, yet the ending is satisfying and open to the possibility of a sequel. May Ms. Bartholomew be prolific and have boundless energy to quickly produce many more books.

--Monica Pope


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