Never Love a Cowboy

Never Marry a Cowboy

The Outlaw & the Lady

A Rogue in Texas

Texas Destiny

Texas Glory

Texas Splendor

To Marry an Heiress

Love with a Scandalous Lord
by Lorraine Heath
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-81743-8
If there is one thing Lorraine Heath knows it's tortured heroes, and in this book she has cooked up a dandy of one. It's the hero's interesting character that keeps the story interesting and raises it above its otherwise flatness.

Despite having spent her entire life in the small town of Fortune, Texas, Lydia Westland has always dreamed of going to London. She has grand fantasies of taking part in the glitter and romance of Society. It's a dream she'd had since her stepfather Grayson, a British nobleman, married her mother when she was a young girl. That story is told in Heath's book A Rogue in Texas.

Lydia's dream is finally realized, albeit under unfortunate circumstances. Her step-grandfather is on his deathbed and her step-uncle Rhys has called Grayson home. Rhys is instantly attracted to Lydia's beauty and sweetness, but knows his past prevents him from ever marrying.

Lydia recruits a reluctant Rhys into helping her make her way through society. In the process she falls in love with him and, in the tradition of heroines of her type, is determined to fix him and prove that he is worthy of her love.

The main problem with Lydia was her inconsistency. When the reader first meets her she is 20, but acts like she's 14. Although by her age she should know at least a little bit about what goes on with men and women, she seems completely clueless. For example, when Rhys agrees to tutor her in the ways of society, she jumps in his lap in gratitude, hugging him and in general rubs herself all over him. Apparently she doesn't understand that this is a major turn and hence why Rhys hustles her off his lap. She gets all hurt that he doesn't like her. A bit of innocence is certainly understandable but, Lydia is twenty, going on twenty-one and grew up in the Western frontier. In that context, she's a little old to be that naÔve. It also makes Rhys' initial attraction to her a little creepy because she seems so young.

Lydia's initial extreme innocence may have been overlooked if she then hadn't done a complete change around the instant she has sex with Rhys. As if by osmosis, she suddenly becomes this worldly, deep woman. She was not a strong heroine all around.

Rhys, fortunately, makes up a lot of ground. As mentioned before, Rhys is haunted, but in an understandable way. Many so-called tortured heroes are nothing more than whiny babies, crying because they're illegitimate or because mommy didn't love them best. Rhys has a dark past that justifies his feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. The first woman he loved, and just happened to be his brother's wife, kills herself following their one sexual encounter. Worse, she leaves a note exposing their affair and naming it the cause of her suicide. After that disgrace, Rhys becomes a gigolo, being paid to service the lonely dissatisfied wives of the local ton. Heath handles all this very delicately. Rhys' story is just tragic enough to get the reader on his side, routing for him without going so far as to make him a complete basket case. The reader really gets behind him as he starts gaining back his self-worth a bit at a time.

The secondary characters for the most part are a bland lot. Lydia's parents are clueless and I find it hard to believe they didn't know anything was going on between her and Rhys. The failure in the villains is that Heath does such a good job painting them as such that when they suddenly turn around in the end, itís forced. The book's ending in general is very disappointing. The underlying secrets regarding Rhys' past and his brother go over the top. Also, everything is wrapped up too neat and tidy. For all the angst that was going on in the book, the pat happy ending was a let down.

As for the rating on this book, it isn't because the sex scenes are that graphic, but rather a gentle warning. The author covers a lot of unusual peccadilloes, such as voyeurism and abusive spouses that may offend certain readers.

--Anne Bulin

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