Diamond in the Ruff

Finding Mr. Right

Gold Dust

Jezebel's Sister

Windfall

 
The Good, The Bad, And The Sexy
by Emily Carmichael
(Bantam, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-553-58282-4
****
Who says that only moronic titles can grace the covers of category romance? Iím not ashamed to admit that when I pulled Carmichaelís latest contemporary from my recent shipment of review books, I had a feeling that TRRís esteemed editor was trying to kill me. Death by mortification, or humiliation - I couldnít decide which. But for readers who like their romance light - and donít mind idiotic titles and hot pink lettering on the cover - The Good, The Bad, And The Sexy is a charming read.

Jackson Stone is a mega-hot, Hollywood star. Heís off filming his latest, sure-to-be-a-blockbuster movie, when he gets word from his ex-wife. Their daughter, Cherie, has run off with a drugged-up, addle-brained musician. Jackson catches up with the couple in Las Vegas and decides the Marilyn Manson-looking 13-year-old needs to spend some quality time with Daddy. Not wanting to see her splashed all over the tabloids, he thinks they both should lay low for a while.

The two quickly head off to the mountains of Arizona, where they meet up with Rachel Marsh and her 11-year-old son, Sam. Rachel runs her own ranch, the Lazy M, which is part tourist dude ranch, and part real-life running ranch. Jackson proposes that he and Cherie hide out at the Lazy M for a while. Heís up for a juicy new part - but wants to get some real-life cowboy grit on his resume. For compensation, heíll pay Rachel $4000 a day. Hey Jack-O, if youíre ever up for the part of a librarian, I know a one-bedroom apartment where you can stay. Iíll only charge $2000 a day!

Rachel can smell b.s. a mile away, and Jacksonís charm puts her on red alert. Nevertheless, she sure could use the money - and besides it will be fun to knock the big-time, city slicker, movie hunk down a few pegs. However, she learns all too quickly that even she isnít immune to Jacksonís charms.

Enjoying Carmichaelís latest romp requires readers to go with the flow and toss reality out the window. For one thing, Jackson wants his time at the Lazy M to be hush-hush, which means going incognito. He does this by cutting his hair, dying it darker, walking with a bit of slouch, and going by the name of Stoney Jackson - and no one really catches on to the charade. Puhleeze. However, it is nice to finally have a romance hero who isnít good at everything. Jackson is a pretty inept cowboy, and his cluelessness provides some funny moments.

Rachel is an appealing romance heroine - assertive, in control and in charge. She certainly doesnít need a man to ride to her rescue - which is good since Jackson couldnít ride a horse to save his own soul. While she leads a lonely life romantically speaking (she has none) - sheís a smart businesswoman and a darn good mother.

The two main secondary characters in the story are the kids - Cherie and Sam. Cherie has perfected the Bride of Frankenstein look out of classic teen rebellion. Her dad is a busy movie star with gorgeous women constantly falling at his feet, and her mother gives several new definitions to the word flaky. Sam is an outdoor lover whose biggest dream in life is to be like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. To say he meets his match in mischief maker Cherie would be an understatement.

While I started this story more than a little skeptical, Carmichael quickly won me over with her charm, appealing characters, and a healthy dose of good, old-fashioned fantasy. Hot pink lettering, and dopey title aside - readers looking for a fluffy, fanciful beach read may find The Good, The Bad, And The Sexy to be a perfect fit.

--Wendy Crutcher


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