The Paternity Factor

 
The Rancher and the Nanny
by Caroline Cross
(Silh. Desire #1298, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76298-4
***
The Rancher and the Nanny is an uneven, yet often-entertaining book with a strong and likeable heroine. The hero is quite another matter. John MacLaren, Montana rancher, has his hands full running his place and trying to be some sort of a father to the eight-year-old daughter he's inherited. Little Lissy was the result of a brief fling, and her existence was a secret until the death of her mother and grandmother. What John really needs is a nanny.

Enter Eve Chandler. Once the pampered granddaughter of a neighboring rancher, she is now nearly penniless, having exhausted her trust fund paying off her late grandfather's debts. In desperation, she applies for the nanny job -- only to be turned down. John remembers Eve from way back. She was always a superior, spoiled princess, and he has no intention of hiring her on.

Fate intervenes, and John finds he's so desperate that he relents. Eve moves onto the ranch, and she and Lissy bond instantly. John, however, is determined to keep his distance. Eve is still a flighty city girl at heart -- or is she?

Eve does just fine as a heroine. She's smart, she's fully aware of her background as a somewhat thoughtless socialite, and she's been well and truly humbled by the loss of her grandfather and her only source of income. The chance to stand on her own two feet is somewhat exhilarating, and if it happens to be on the ranch of the one guy who could always make her weak in the knees, so be it. He's no longer her grandpa's ranch hand, though. There will be some serious obstacles to overcome, not the least is the distance John is determined to keep between them.

John is much less interesting because he's so cardboard. He was raised in a boys' home, he's never loved anyone, he'll never marry, anyone he loves will just leave, yadda, yadda. He doesn't dare let himself fall for Eve because he's certain she'll eventually get bored and leave. He doesn't let himself hug his own daughter because he just knows he'll be a rotten father. The problem with this sort of hero is that the reader often doesn't much care if he gets the girl or not. Sort of like the boyfriend who acts like an ass until his girlfriend gets fed up and leaves, then wanders around telling everyone, "See? I knew she'd dump me!"

If you haven't had your fill of cowboy stories yet, you might give The Rancher and the Nanny a try. Eve and Lissy will surely entertain you.

--Cathy Sova


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