The Cowboy Takes a Wife
by Lois Faye Dyer
(Silh. Sp. Edition # 1198, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24198-4
***
The Cowboy Takes a Wife is an accurate title, up to a point. The complete title could have been The Cowboy Takes a Wife, Reluctantly and Not Until the Last Moment. My rating of acceptable is based on the fact that, while I'm tired of romances with almost interminable internal conflict, not everyone is.

CeCe Hawkins, pregnant and widowed, has given up her Seattle life and is moving to her late husband's Montana ranch. Hers is a unique situation. In her early thirties, she accepted a proposition from a dying neighbor. He would donate the sperm for her artificial insemination if she would marry him in order to insure that he would have an heir. What he didn't tell CeCe was that he and his estranged half brother jointly owned the property. The bad blood feud will continue, even past the grave.

Not knowing any of this history, CeCe is in Montana, ready to claim her inheritance. She's stranded with a flat tire, and a storm approaching. Help arrives in the form of the half brother, Zach Colby. Immediately Zach makes the connection but doesn't tell CeCe that he's the half brother. He'll let the lawyer inform her of her late husband's duplicity.

CeCe and Zach decide to co-exist, with a grudging peace. While they both have a serious case of lust, neither want to act on it. They'll suffer in silence. The situation changes radically when CeCe almost miscarries. She faces the choice of a lengthy hospital stay or enforced total bed rest. Zach agrees to care for her for the two weeks while she rests. Her convalescence slowly changes Zach's mind. Maybe he can get married again. Maybe all women aren't cheating liars, unlike his former wife, who claimed to be pregnant, but was really lying. However, he will not love another woman. No sirree, no way, no how. Here we have the reluctant hero, dragging his feet until the bitter end.

Early in the book, Zach and CeCe decide that the best course of controlling their mutual lust is to avoid each other, to avoid being alone with the other. When CeCe agrees with his conditions, Zach grumbles internally. Why is it that when a man makes suggestions as to the way a relationship is to go and the heroine agrees readily, the hero is taken aback? It's as though she's hurt his masculine pride by agreeing so quickly. Does he wonder if his testosterone has taken a downswing? Isn't he irresistible anymore?

When the main characters are at cross purposes for most of a book or continue to deny their attraction, I wonder why they're even in a romance novel. That reluctance to commit or to admit their affection makes it hard to me to sustain interest. Yes, the cowboy takes a wife, but he takes forever.

--Linda Mowery


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