My Child, Our Child

Race To The Altar by Patricia Hagan
(Silh. Sp. Ed.#1397, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24397-9
This book is well written and most of the time quite entertaining, but the infuriating, nonsensical, immature hero makes it fall slightly short of recommendable status. I don't regret having read this book, but I remain convinced that it could have been a lot better.

Liz Mallory is a public relations representative recently assigned to aid race car driver Rick Castles in the media because he is being endorsed by her PR company's Big Boy Pizza account. Liz and Rick are immediately attracted to each other, but try to keep from doing anything about it. Liz doesn't want to get involved with a man she works with and Rick doesn't want to get involved with a woman period.

Making matters worse for any potential relationship (including a friendship) between the protagonists is the fact that Rick believes women have no business anywhere near a race track. He wants Liz replaced with a male PR representative and will do anything he can to make her quit. After spending a passionate night with her, however, he decides to ease up and let her do her job. Now the problem for Rick is that he must concentrate on not allowing himself to fall in love with Liz.

For the most part Race To The Altar is an enjoyable book. Liz is strong and likable and the reader's desire to see her win out over horrid Rick is what keeps your fingers turning the pages. Liz is not a woman who wastes her time mooning over the hero - a positive attribute in every book, a necessity in this instance to keep the novel from a lower rating.

Rick's treatment of Liz goes beyond infuriating and is much better described as insulting and sometimes even cruel. Even though Liz is always pleasant toward him and performs her job with excellence, he calls her a bimbo behind her back, shoves her face in the snow, plays mean tricks on her, and treats her time and again with sheer callousness.

Another strike against the hero is that he often times doesn't make sense. For example, Rick doesn't want to get involved with a woman on a personal level because racing is his life and he "knows" that women aren't cut out to handle a race car driver's life. From getting angry over doting female fans to getting upset about car wrecks, it has been his experience that women are too emotional for him. Okay, even if that's true of everyone he has dated on a personal level, what precisely does that have to do with Liz on a professional level?

From the very beginning before anything romantic even ensues, and contrary to the fact that Liz proves herself from the get-go to be a dedicated and intelligent worker who is not given to emotional outbursts, Rick has it out for Liz and decides he has to get rid of her. The author explains this away by suggesting that Rick wants Liz to leave simply because he's attracted to her. Such a phenomenon, however, doesn't happen in real life. In reality if a man over the age of ten is attracted to a woman he wants her around...he does not want to push her face in the snow and call her names to get her to resign as Rick does to Liz.

Rick is, for lack of better words, a big baby. Call me a romance genre elitist, but I prefer to spend my money reading about grown-up men, not boys who pout when things don't go their way or play mean tricks on the girlies because they think they have cooties.

So why, you might ask, did I give Race To The Altar three hearts? The reason is simple: the book kept my attention and managed to make me want to finish it. As previously mentioned, I enjoyed watching Liz excel on a professional level despite Rick's attempts to thwart her success. Remember the surge of triumph you felt when Sheriff Brody finally defeated the murdering shark during the last scene in Jaws? Same thing.

And Rick, although it is late in coming and he doesn't do nearly enough groveling, does eventually chill out and see the error of his ways. Unfortunately he doesn't do it early enough to garner his story four hearts, but Race to the Altar is a solid three hearts and entertaining nevertheless.

--Tina Engler

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