Nobody Does It Better

Talk to Me

The Wallflower

The Last Man in Texas by Jan Freed
(Har. Super. #918, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70918-8
Cameron Malloy's advertising agency is in trouble. Expenditures have far outstripped income, but Cameron is determined not to let anyone know that. Not even Elizabeth Richmond, his senior vice-president of marketing and virtual partner. If anyone can pull a rabbit out of a hat, it's Lizzy. Dependable, brainy Lizzy, whom he's known from high school. She'll save the firm with her management of a prospective big account. But when Cameron, in a hangover-induced temper, insults Elizabeth, she does the one thing he never expected her to do.

She quits.

Not only does Lizzy tell him to go to the devil, she announces that she wants to get engaged. And not to just anybody, but a man who, like Cameron, has been labeled one of Austin's Ten Most Eligible Bachelors. If Cameron wants one shred of help with the SkyHawk airlines marketing proposal, he has to help her land the guy. Blackmail? So what? Cameron's been getting his own way for ten years while Lizzy worked in the background. Time and again, his foul temper was forgiven because of his adorable face. No more, at least not with her.

Only Lizzy has an ulterior motive, involving the man she's secretly loved since high school. Cameron, for his part, suddenly can't imagine life without Lizzy. Adorable, sexy Lizzy, who now wants nothing to do with him. Or does she?

The "I've loved him silently for ten years and he's never noticed me" theme doesn't always work. For one thing, it's hard to have much sympathy for a woman stuck in a high-school crush and unable to get on with her life. Here it squeaks by, though, on the basis of Jan Freed's clever writing and the characterization of Lizzy, who knows darn well she's an idiot to carry a torch for this guy but can't seem to make herself get interested in anyone else. The fact that she's kept herself in close proximity to him all these years hasn't helped her, either. She approaches her campaign to win Cameron's attention as an adult, a last-ditch attempt before fading out of the picture forever. I could empathize with that.

Cameron, while not always sympathetic, is an interesting character. Who hasn't known a golden boy, the guy who skates through life on his looks and charm, the one who never seems to struggle to get what he wants? Well, Golden Boy Cameron is in for one heck of a fight, not to mention some fast growing up. If he wants Lizzy, he'll have to ditch the charm and approach her honestly, something he's never had to do. She knows him too well. The usual methods aren't going to work.

The Last Man in Texas is a fun, snappy read featuring two humanly flawed, but intrinsically likeable characters. You'll root for Lizzy and Cameron as they bumble their way toward one another and their much deserved happy ending. Enjoy!

--Cathy Sova

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