The Love of a Cowboy

 
The Love of A Stranger
by Anna Jeffrey
(Onyx, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-41136-6
**
I wanted to like this book. The Love of A Stranger has so many good things going for it. Doug Hawkins is a wounded hero that seems to have his head on straight (in all but his choice of a woman) and he is easy to like. The plot is about a logger trying to swindle the rights to get to a protected stand of timber and he is a well-written and smarmy bad guy. But the downfall of the story is the heroine. What a misnomer that is! And because of her, I must steer you away.

Alex McGregor grew up poor and has earned her money. She is a successful real estate tycoon, splitting her time between her home base in LA and her summer retreat in Callister, Idaho, near Boise. She actually owns part of a mountain, surrounded by Forest Service Lands and a small parcel of virgin timber owned by logger Kenny Miller. Miller bought the land from Alex and her ex-husband Charlie. He is now claiming that he also bought the rights to the access road. But Alex disagrees and refuses to allow him to ruin her property.

Alex lives in a restored ranch house on the mountain, surrounded by trees and a beautiful pond with a waterfall that feeds off Swede Creek. Her fear is that logging trucks running on the road will break down the soil into the creek, thereby ruining the pond. Environmental studies are mixed, but Alex is holding her ground.

Doug Hawkins is former member of the LAPD and he has just moved to Callister. He decided to move there for two reasons. The first is to get away from LA and the scandal he left behind. His last assignment involved a drug deal gone bad, several cops (including his partner) dead and the 16-year-old son of a local politician gunned down. The boy was involved in the drug deal, and unfortunately Doug was involved with the boy’s mother. They had been having an affair and the politician did everything he could to ruin Doug’s reputation and his career. The second reason is because his old college buddy, Ted Benson, lived in Callister, working for the Forest Service.

Neither Doug nor Alex starts off the tale leaving good impressions. Alex catches Doug at a cabin on her property getting ready to screw around with the local light skirt. Alex becomes almost hysterical to run them off and Doug appears to be just a dumb man seeking any type of sex he can find. But Doug slowly grows on readers as he shares his life and we find he is basically a nice guy who made a dumb call. Alex, on the other hand, doesn’t change until it was too late for me to like her.

She is a witch, rude, demeaning to many, callous in her actions and quarrelsome to all. She seems to treat one and all equally poorly, even Ted, her so-called best friend. Doug doesn’t like her for much of the first half of the book. He is intrigued by her body and the seeming paradigm she presents. He was much more intrigued than this reader. Alex would seem to be mellowing and then suddenly would turn on Doug and kick him out, or call him names, or accuse him of doing something awful. She was very unpredictable. Alex was not a likable person and I find it hard to like a romance when I dislike one of the lead characters so much.

By the end of the story, Alex is made to be a much more sympathetic character with some reasons for why she acted the way she did at times, but it was too little, too late. And I could never really understand why Doug kept going back for more abuse over and over again.

The sexuality rating is a little misleading. While there are scenes of sex, the frequency and vividness really only rate a PG-13 rating. But the author has decided to throw in some gratuitous graphic language in a few places that just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story and it is my reason for adding the extra warning.

The Love of a Stranger has promise and even has a decent plot. Unfortunately, it also has a hero stuck on an unlikable heroine, and thus is not really a likeable book when all is said and done.

--Shirley Lyons


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