Hidden in Texas by Ginger Chambers
(Harl. Super. Rom. #907, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70907-2
****
I had almost given up on category romances when I picked up this latest edition in the West Texans series. The premise is an appealing one and I’m happy to report that Ginger Chambers deliveries a nice story with no secret babies, billionaires, or contrived big misunderstandings.

Katlin Brown has been a woman obsessed ever since the death of her older brother Michael. Michael was a helicopter pilot in the Army, when he was killed during a top secret mission. The Army has been tight-lipped about the incident, and closure has been impossible for Katlin and her parents. Driven to uncover some answers, Katlin tracks down an officer who lived through that fateful mission, Quint McCabe.

After the disastrous mission, Quint left the Army shrouded in disgrace. He returned to the Parker Ranch to be near his family and to live in much desired isolation. Quint is unable to talk about the ordeal, refuses to speak to even his family about it.

Katlin, using an assumed identity, goes undercover as a magazine reporter writing a story on the “Vanishing Texas Cowboy.” Using contacts in the publishing world, and with a little deception, she is soon assigned to Quint in a remote section of the expansive Parker Ranch. But Quint isn’t too happy about someone invading his solitude, and Katlin isn’t about to leave until she gets some answers from the handsome cowboy.

What is so appealing about Hidden in Texas is its simplicity. Besides Katlin’s true identity and the mission, there is no other outside conflict -- no cattle rustlers, serial killers, earthquakes, droughts, floods or wild animal attacks. The entire focus of the story is on the growing attraction between Quint and Katlin, and their past emotional conflict concerning the mission.

Katlin is an appealing heroine -- driven to learn the truth, not only for herself, but for her parents. She’s tired of the constant lying, and feeling guilty about all the people she has had to deceive. She desperately loved her brother, and mourns not only his loss, but the loss of her happy family.

As a cowboy hero, you won’t find much better than Quint. I make no apologies for being a sucker for a cowboy romance hero. There’s something so appealing about a rugged outdoorsman, in beat up jeans and chaps, riding a horse across open ranch land. Quint is the strong silent type, a man haunted by past tragedies, who has shut himself off from the world instead of confronting it.

My only complaint is that the consummation of their relationship comes late in the novel, and then is rushed. I had taken a vested interest and walked away feeling slighted. I’d have much rather preferred there being no sexual encounter, closing the novel with an implied moment, and having the reader use their imagination. A G rated story with oodles of sexual tension and build up is more appealing to this reader than a PG rated story with a rushed encounter tossed in at the end.

Aside from that, Hidden in Texas is a nice story about nice people that will appeal to readers who are tired of the stereotypical elements in category romance. Fans already familiar with this series will no doubt enjoy this return visit to the Parker Ranch, while newcomers will find this an enjoyable introduction.

-- Wendy Crutcher


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