Court Me, Cowboy
by Barbara White Daille
(Harl. Am. Rom. #1140, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-373-75144-3
This is the second in the Baby to Be series and is set in the little town of Dillon, Texas. Court Me, Cowboy has a lot of formula, a hero who uses his past hurts to keep him from enjoying the present, a heroine who has a lack of esteem and a town full of people wanting to play matchmaker. Nothing new, but it is acceptable all the same.

Gabe Miller is not the impetuous type. Yet three months ago, he married a woman he had just met in Las Vegas after a whirlwind week of sex and fun. The marriage lasted three weeks before she left him on his ranch and sent him papers for a divorce. He is stunned to see her Mustang pull into his driveway at 6 a.m. on this sunny morning.

Marissa thought she had found love, but was so lonely in the three weeks of her marriage, she couldnít see how she could survive. Gabe worked all the time and didnít seem like the same man who had charmed, seduced and loved her in Las Vegas. Now she is back. She never filed the divorce papers and she finds herself pregnant with their child. She doesnít want her child to be raised like she was, so she proposes that Gabe and she try again so that the baby has two parents.

Gabe agrees, although he is sure that Marissa wonít stay and he is willing to do anything to keep his child. He even agrees to try to court her and woo her, before they share a bed again. The deal is tough, that they have to act like a loving couple in front of the ranch hands and the townspeople. Since Marissa is a chef, she will cook for the ranch and Gabe will spend more time with her, getting to know her.

But the baggage they carry forms a mighty barrier that they have to overcome. Marissa was raised by a mother who looked for love between the sheets, so they moved around a lot and had lots of men to contend with. When the men started showing too much of an interest in Marissa, she ran away to her father. Her father was a rich man in material wealth, sent her to the finest schools and even to culinary school so she could become a chef in one of his many world-class restaurants. But he was cold, emotionally. She yearns for warmth and a loving relationship based on love and respect, but because of her background she accepts less for way too long.

Gabe, meanwhile, was raised by his father and grandfather on the ranch. His mother left when he was young and he never forgave her for walking out on them. He had an attempted first marriage that ended when the girl wanted more than just life on a ranch. She too just up and left him. When Marissa left after three weeks, it was rejection all over. Gabe is determined to stay with Marissa for the baby, but he is equally determined not to give her his heart. He hangs onto it a tad too long.

This story is full of predictable arguments, actions and misunderstandings. The townspeople embrace Marissa and decide that she is the right person for Gabe. They do all sorts of things to throw them together, hoping to heal their relationship, even as Gabe and Marissa think they are fooling them all. Gabe is sullen and generally quarrelsome. Marissa goes from hopelessly optimistic to depressed because Gabe isnít acting like she wants. This type of relationship gets tiresome after awhile.

But there were a few bright spots and that kept things interesting. Marissa shows some sparks of spunk and this surprises Gabe. The townspeople, especially those from the previous entry, are nice people and it is fun to watch them watch these two. There were scenes of warmth and sharing that showed the promise of this romance. It was enough that I was rooting for these two to work things out, making Court Me, Cowboy an acceptable reading experience.

--Shirley Lyons

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