The Sheriff’s Son
by Barbara White Daille
(Harl. American #1131, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-373-75135-4
New author Barbara White Daille has turned to a formula and while enjoyable at times, it is tepid. There is promise in her writing but The Sheriff’s Son is not a book I can fully recommend.

Sarah Lindstrom is almost bankrupt, trying to run a bookstore that has been run by her family for years. Her parents have both passed on and the few distant relatives she has live in another state. Except, that is, for her seven-year-old son, Kevin. He resulted from a teenage relationship with a local boy who went off to join the army without knowing that he was going to be a father. Sarah left town briefly when she first found herself pregnant, and when she returned heavy with child, she gave the story that she had married and divorced. And the townspeople acted like they believed her, even though everyone guessed the true story. Now the father, Tanner Jones, has returned as the county sheriff.

Tanner and Sarah are immediately attracted, but Sarah has to try to protect her secrets…one being their son and two being the fact that she is struggling to stay afloat. The townspeople, who are nice, friendly neighbors, are all conspiring to help Tanner guess that Kevin is his son so that he and Sarah can get together like everyone thinks they should. The set-up for the story is a series of pranks and vandalism that point to a teenage gang. Several middle school age kids are suspected to be involved, with little Kevin as a sort of hanger-on to their mischief.

There are some nice moments in this story. Kevin is a good kid and his developing relationship with Tanner (even before Tanner knows) is a joy to watch. It is so obvious that this boy is screaming for a male role model and Tanner is a nice guy willing to help Kevin and the other young boys reach maturity. As a law enforcement officer he has an investment in the local youth and that commitment comes shining through.

At times, Tanner’s charm with Sarah comes shining through and he seems like a nice romantic hero. During those times, when he and Sarah are working together to set up the neighborhood watch program, their relationship shows promise and the reader roots for the happy ending.

Unfortunately, there are just as many times when the reader cringes at the typical run of the mill story and the ridiculous pretext that Sarah operates under. Kevin looks like Tanner and is even left-handed, yet he doesn’t see it and Sarah is convinced that she has bamboozled the whole town. Granted, it is a small town, but everyone knows. How could Sarah be so obtuse? Secondly, she is running this bookstore that no one seems to ever shop in. The only time people seem to come is for a book club. No wonder she is broke and can’t pay her bills. And her only idea to make more money is to sell tea and her famous pecan loaf because everyone enjoys it when she brings it to the local gatherings.

Another piece that defies real logic is why the townspeople would be so invested in getting these two together. There is no real reason given, except that they are nice neighborly folks and want to see Sarah taken care of…and she lets them. She accepts meals and other gifts (like car repairs), always thinking that they are being so nice. She is a little whiny and not a strong heroine.

The Sheriff’s Son has a lot of holes and things that are predictable and trite – almost to the point of no return. There is just enough promise in the author’s story that it is saved from oblivion, primarily thanks to Tanner and Kevin, and it just squeaks over the edge into three heart territory.

--Shirley Lyons

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