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Marrying an Older Man
by Arlene James
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1235, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24235-2
***
Twenty-one-year-old Caroline Moncton has seen rancher Jesse Wagner around town and is interested in him. When she hears that he needs a companion for his mother, she applies for the job and charms Jesse's mother on the spot. While she really does genuinely care for Mrs. Wagner, Caroline has an ulterior motive. She wants to marry Jesse, love him, have his babies and live happily ever after.

Jesse Wagner, a widower for ten years, is at first amused that young Caroline is interested in him. It's no secret that she likes him. Jesse knows he's too old for this golden child; he's sixteen years older and has a deep secret about his first marriage, a secret that won't allow him to claim any happiness with Caroline.

I don't think I've ever met a heroine who's so . . . perfect. There's nothing that she can't do. Her cooking is extraordinary. Did you know that adding a pinch of cream of tartar will give your biscuits a better crust? She's a wiz at the computer. She has an angel's face, the body of a goddess and waist-length blonde hair. What really threw me over the edge regarding this larger-than-life paragon of virginal womanhood is that she knitted all of her own Christmas gifts. Gloves, socks, a one of a kind Indian-patterned muffler and the pièce de résistance: a sweater for Jesse that's a showstopper:

"The grayish blue body was a perfect match for his eyes, and the geometric yellow, red and black pattern across the chest was derived from a published Navajo pattern. She had carefully worked a single black silhouette of a horse like a kind of badge over the right breast."

Makes my gift of a store-bought shirt seem kind of tacky.

Caroline also knows her own mind and is undeterred with each of Jesse's rebuffs. And there were lots. Throughout the whole book. Until the very end. When she finally thinks that she's seduced Jesse and his dad walks in, she ends up apologizing to Mr. Wagner, Sr. I don't remember a single time when she ever doubted that she'd get Jesse. There's no dissembling on her part.

Mrs. Wagner, Jesse's mom, is a wonderful secondary character. Afflicted with almost debilitating arthritis, it's poignant to see how she copes with an illness that she sees as something which will make her totally unattractive to her husband, who's totally clueless as to how his seeming indifference to his wife's pain is affecting her.

A lot of romances are light and fluffy, not terribly reality based. We know that everything's going to be okay in the end. With Marrying an Older Man, I never doubted from the very beginning. Caroline is one of the most resolute heroines I've ever met and has the most healthy ego I've ever read about. Nothing really gets her down. She seems to know that the end of the book is coming and with the end, she'll get her man. And it took him that long to come around. That utopian feeling seemed to make the book extremely unrealistic. I couldn't ever get into the story. Watching the perfect paragon, older and wiser than her years, chase the elusive bachelor just didn't affect me.

This is a gentle, predictable story. There are no sudden ups and downs, just a story of one woman's unremitting efforts to catch the man she loves. Marrying an Older Man is a very adequate story and enjoyable if you're into fairy tale heroines.

--Linda Mowery


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