Across the Rainbow

The Bachelor Project

A Cry at Midnight

The Best Blind Date in Texas
by Victoria Chancellor
(Harl. American #884, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-16884-5
Wow! Another book set in Texas. If I weren't a Texan, I'd think that writers were exaggerating about our Great State. But when you've got Ken Doll as the current governor, I guess setting romance books here makes sense. I'm just ready for somebody to discover that states such as Oklahoma and New Mexico have horses and cows. Heroes, too.

The Best Blind Date in Texas introduces us to one of my least favorite types of heroes, the one who's been betrayed and has learned his lesson, by golly. Set in a small town near Austin and San Antonio, Gray Phillips, a man double-whammied when his wife betrayed him with his best friend, has decided that marriage and commitment are things in his past, sorta like Lubbock in his rear view mirror. To make sure that the lovely ladies of Ranger Springs never, ever, ever get their hopes up about him, he's got a one-date rule. Seems to me that he'd run out of women in a small town, but I guess that's too logical to worry about.

Heroes who are set on remaining Unhappily Ever After have about as much appeal as getting a bikini wax.

Amy Jo Wheatley is returning to Ranger Springs to take over her dad's medical practice. She's missed her small town and is delighted to be back. She needs a date for a medical fund-raiser, so the town matchmakers, with her father being an honorary member, get her a blind date with Gray.

As luck and the plot would have it, Amy and Gray hit it off like gravy and mashed potatoes. That's more Texan than caviar and pita toast points. Gray does issue the obligatory warning that he's a one-date kind of guy. Amy understands his reluctance, considering that she's busy setting up her medical practice. Unlike Gray, however, she doesn't rule out a future HEA.

Gray is put out with himself when he finds that he can't get Amy off his mind. He finds ways to see her, but they aren't DATES, so he isn't breaking his vow. When the matchmakers tell him that one of the women he'd dated earlier needs a date to another function, he races to Amy for help. He's thinking that if he accepts the date with the woman, breaking his one-date rule, then other women will expect him to date them twice, too. Is this man on an extended ego trip or what?

So Amy and Gray begin a pretend relationship. This happens after Amy has turned down his offer to have a clandestine affair with him. Talk about cheesy. To make sure that the gossips and the matchmakers are appeased, they become faux engaged, too. Doesn't this seem a bit too convoluted, too theatrical - just to make sure that gossips and matchmakers leave you alone? I'm all for Nancy Reagan's approach about now. JUST SAY NO!

What I've just described fits perfectly into my concept of a two-heart book. This hero doesn't begin to come close to what I expect in my heroes. A reasonable expectation toward women would be nice, for starters. What turns the book around and makes it morph into an enjoyable story is that Gray finally lets himself begin to enjoy Amy's company and to see that not all women are witches and that not all marriages are made in hell.

All of these scenes are warm and tender, and are the reason why romances are so popular. Gray bumbles a bit and has to be figuratively hit over the head before he can admit that love actually exists, but the guy does finally become an acceptable romance hero.

It's truly a good feeling to read a book that gets appreciably better the longer you read. It's just too bad that the hero had to be such a knucklehead in the beginning, a man who takes far too long to see what's really important.

--Linda Mowery

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