Mail Order Cowboy by Pamela Bauer
(Harlequin American Romance #718, $3.99, PG) 0-373-16718-0
*****
As I read the 4 page prologue to Mail Order Cowboy, I thought that I had pretty much figured out the storyline, and was prepared to be bored. We had our hero, about to be hung for murders he didn't commit in 1876 Minnesota, and I just knew the heroine would show up and play the part that Mary Steenburgen played in the movie Going South with Jack Nicholson. You remember... it was a great movie... with the premise that an unwed woman could claim a man about to be hung and marry him. (Best line from the movie: "You's the best I ever had... 'cept for that circus fella...")

Well... was I ever wrong! And pleasantly surprised! James Woodson Harris is hung, but struck by lightning at the same time and he's transported to the future. Nice little plot twist, don't you think?

When Wood comes to under an oak tree that's 122 years older than when he was strung up to it, he's in the middle of a farm owned and operated by Hannah Davis in current day Minnesota. His unconscious body is found by Hannah's great-aunt Gabby, and Hannah's son, Jeremy.

Gabby thinks he's the mail order groom that she's sent off for... not for herself, mind you, but for Hannah... and Jeremy is on the secret. Hannah would not be pleased if she knew about Gabby's meddling, but Gabby is desperate to help Hannah obtain her inheritance that requires being married at age 30. Gabby's brother didn't think that a woman could handle running a farm, and so he'd put an unbreakable condition on Hannah's financial inheritance. She got the farm, but not the money. Jeremy's father is not part of the picture, he was a brief summer romance - and Hannah has no need for a husband.

Wood, dazed and confused, and vastly relieved to be alive assumes the role of the absent mail order groom. He thinks that Gabby has advertised for farm help and until he finds out what happened, he's happy to pitch in. He doesn't know he's a mail order groom, he doesn't even know what year it is. Imagine his surprise when he's confronted with indoor plumbing, cars, and refrigerators! Hannah thinks he's a drifter, and a few bricks short of a load. But Gabby and Jeremy conspire to keep him on the farm, and the romance begins.

Hannah wonders what in the world she's going to do with this drifter, who claims to have farm work experience, but can't drive a combine or recognize a soybean. Wood seems cloaked in too many secrets, and she's pretty sure he's a con man of some sort. Wood is just trying to figure out the wonders of a flushing commode, and how to get a driver's license when his birth certificate (if he could get a copy of it) says 1842.

And of course, they have a bone melting attraction to each other - always a problem when you're trying to do everyday types of things like balance your bank book, or harvest soybeans. Or learn how to drive!

I enjoyed this charming time travel romance very much. I can recommend it just as much as I recommend you see the movie Going South. The characters are strong and well developed, the romance is sizzling, and the story great. As for me - I'm writing "I will not make a hasty judgement" at least 50 times on the chalkboard, and looking forward to Pamela Bauer's next book.

--Julia S. Sandlin


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