Code Name: Cowboy

Man on a Mission

Once Forbidden

Out of Exile

Rodeo Dad

Strangers When We Married

Rules of Engagement
by Carla Cassidy
(Silh. Romance #1702, $3.99, G) ISBN0-373-19702-0
Rules of Engagement is the fifth story in the “Marrying the Boss’ Daughter” series and it is not one of the better entries. Boss’s daughter Emily Winters is determined to play matchmaker with all the single male executives at her father’s company Wintersoft, Inc. She thinks this will deter her father from trying to match her up like he did several years ago with another young executive Todd Baxter, a match that ended in divorce. To complicate her life, Todd has been starting to make overtures again.

Her current challenge is Senior VP of Technology, Nate Leeman. But before she can get really serious about finding him the right woman, they must first discover who is trying to sabotage Utopia, the new software Nate is developing. He has hopes it will revolutionize the business and it is set for introduction in just a few weeks.

Emily and her father bring in technology guru Kat Sanderson to help Nate find out how the hacker is getting into the program and then identify the hacker. What even Emily doesn’t know is that Kat and Nate have a history. Five years before, when both were in college in California, they were hot and heavy for four months. Their relationship ended when Nate asked Kat to marry him, come to Boston and be his wife. He wanted her to give up her career and just be a wife and mother. She said no. They were both heartbroken.

Now they are working side by side in Boston every day. The unresolved feelings they both had are still there and surfacing slowly by slowly. They both realize their relationship had been built on lust. They knew they had fun, laughed, loved and were great together. But they did not know what made the other tick and both had secrets from their childhood they never shared.

Now they have the chance to start over. Nate must get over the fact that he grew up as a computer nerd with parents who were too wrapped up in their academic careers to really show him any love and affection. He was lonely and quiet as a child, trying to impress them with his brains. Even now, they pay little attention to him, going off on research junkets for months at a time without even telling him.

Kat had secrets too. Her father left when she was just eight and she was raised by her mom, who went through fits of depression and alcoholism. Kat grew up trying to compensate for basically having to care for her mom, the house and her life without letting on to her friends that this was happening. She swore she would build her own life and never depend on a man like her mother did.

Their childhoods made Kat and Nate the people they are. But both are still nursing hurt feelings and neither knows what the other is feeling or thinking now. And they still have to find this hacker, a person they now suspect is inside the company.

The story moves along nicely and yet, did not engage me. Kat is a dynamic, self-made woman, but she spends a lot of time acting as if everything she does in her life is new and fresh. She acts a little too naïve for a woman with her upbringing. Nate, on the other hand, is sullen and terse and other than being handsome, has little to recommend him as a romantic hero. Everything in the story states that he is like this all the time, except for those few short months in California. Lust-induced mania is not something I find attractive, especially if everything else points to him being a rude, insensitive workaholic.

The “mystery” behind the computer theft is too obvious. There is only one possible option given and I am certain every reader can guess who it is as early as I did, without any real evidence given. It takes the people in the story a lot longer to figure it out, of course.

I have read most of the stories in this series and have found myself entertained. With Rules of Engagement, I found myself disappointed.

--Shirley Lyons

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