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Just What the Doctor Ordered

The Winner's Circle

Married by High Noon
by Leigh Greenwood
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1295, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24295-6
Dana Marsh is returning to Iron Springs, Virginia, after fourteen years. As a child she spent summers with her grandmother in Iron Springs and had a long-running crush on Gabe Purvis, her best friend Mattie's older brother. Gabe did his best to ignore Dana's adolescent crush and paid no attention to her, considering her a New Yorker too rich for the likes of him.

Three years ago Mattie, abandoned and pregnant, moved in with Dana in her New York apartment. As the story begins, Mattie has died and has named Dana and Gabe as guardians of two-year-old Danny. Dana had mistakenly assumed that Gabe, a thirty-six-year-old bachelor, won't want custody of Danny. Mattie had stipulated that Danny be raised near family. To Dana, that means bringing Danny back for vacations, but Gabe interprets it as living in Iron Springs year round.

What appears to be an impasse is made even more difficult with the appearance of Danny's natural father, a louse who's suddenly decided that he wants custody, too. Gabe's attorney claims that the only way that Dana and Gabe can keep Danny is if they marry and present a united front -- the quicker, the better -- thus the explanation for the title.

Their marriage of convenience will allow them to keep Danny, but it doesn't begin to solve the question of who will ultimately get custody.

After the wedding, the issue of custody and Danny's natural father both fade into nothing. Well, there are inferences that the louse's attorney is watching them, waiting for them to mess up, but his presence is always off-stage and is nothing more than a minor irritant. The main focus from here on is whether Dana will want to relocate to Iron Springs, and whether Gabe can trust this city girl to settle down to the slower pace of life in Virginia. Poor Dana has to suffer through a lot of comparisons to Gabe's first wife, who couldn't adapt to life in Iron Springs.

Dana and Gabe are both underdeveloped characters. Dana can't make up her mind if she thinks that Gabe is competent with Danny or not. She's a nag concerning his babysitting attempts and accuses him of trying to win Danny's affection with food. In another scene she's jealous of Danny when Gabe plays with him instead of paying attention to her. She's admitted to herself that she wants to be loved and appreciated, not second place. Reconciling those differences seems to take an unnecessarily long time.

Gabe frequently takes his sexual frustration out on Dana. I had to snort as I read about Gabe blaming Dana for his loss of control. After all, it hadn't happened with other women. Ergo, it had to be Dana's fault. Gabe didn't score too high on the mature-o- meter for most of the book. He's certain that Dana, like his first wife, won't want him or life in Iron Springs.

What bothered me most about Married at High Noon was the lack of laughter, both from the characters and in my reaction to the story. There's no joy or happiness that these people experience and that lack translates into a less than satisfying read. Their lives were almost a gray monotone. Not once did I smile, grin, laugh or even manage a warm, fuzzy feeling. Life's too short to read books that only focus on the gray emotions. Give me humor -- even if it's just a small interlude that translates into a chuckle or even a warm feeling -- or give me another book.

--Linda Mowery

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