Duets 60 by Gayle Kaye and Anne Gracie
(Harlequin, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44126-6
Duets 60 features a pair of heroines who manage to be both arrogant and slightly dimwitted, leaving this reader feeling exasperated and shortchanged. Kiss that Cowboy! by Gayle Kaye is the opening tale. Candace Porter has come to Texas all the way from Connecticut to do “research” for an opinion piece she’s writing for Millennium Woman magazine. The subject? Cowboys Are No Sexier Than Any Other Men. Problem is, it’s just her theory, and she has no facts to back it up. So here she sits, in a honky-tonk cowboy bar, dressed in her little city outfit, drinking white wine and telling herself that no cowboy can turn her on, so therefore her theory is correct.

Nice to know the state of research in America has reached this advanced level. Anyway, Tanner Carson, true-blue Texas cowboy, asks her to dance and the heat immediately builds between them. Candace, in true researcher fashion, immediately runs away. Tanner doesn’t know where to find her. Never fear, Prince Charming, you aren’t going to get off the hook that easily. Candace is staying with her friend Darcy, a veterinarian, and sure enough, Darcy takes Candace along when she makes a call on Tanner’s ranch. Now Tanner has to convince Candace that he’s the right guy for her. She, of course, is going to spend most of the story insisting she’s not at all in love with a cowboy.

Since I thought Candace was a supercilious twit and Tanner a cardboard cowpoke at best, it didn’t really matter to me if he got the girl or not, but lovers of cowboy tales might find this story amusing.

How the Sheriff Was Won by Anne Gracie is a strange story, indeed. First of all, the typeset is so small it gives one the feeling this was intended to be a full-length contemporary, or at least a longer category novel. Since Ms. Gracie has made a splash in the area of historical romance with her first two releases, one can’t help but wonder where this came from.

Jassie McQuilty has inherited her great-uncle’s newspaper in the small town of Bear Claw, Montana. She has to stay in Bear Claw for a year before she can sell the newspaper and return to New York, where she belongs. After all, she has a career in journalism to consider! But for a supposed “journalist”, her vocabulary is somewhat impaired:

Many of the stores had signs advertising their wares. Jassie read one: The Finest Fishing Flies in Montana. Special Discount Price. They sold flies here? Jassie shuddered. She killed flies with a spray can. Her new neighbors apparently shopped for them. Flies at discount prices. Great.

Oh, and Jassie isn’t really a crime reporter back in New York. She works as a gossip columnist and lifestyle reporter, but she would be a crime reporter, darn it, if it weren’t for her sexist boss!

Spare me from self-delusional nitwits. And if this weren’t bad enough, Jassie steps off the bus in Bear Claw, trips, and lands in the arms of the town sheriff, John T. Stone. Right then and there she decides she’ll have a fling with him. After all, if she has to be stuck in Bear Claw, might as well make it fun. She’ll try her best breathy, Betty Boop flirtation with him and soon she’ll have herself a hot time in Montana. Yee haw.

Except John T. Stone doesn’t react the way Jassie wants. So she decides to use her editorial power to force his hand, and things get out of control.

Some readers are going to love Jassie, but frankly, I couldn’t stand her. Yeah, yeah, this is all the rage in contemporary romance - women deciding they want hot sex and going after it - but Jassie came across as not only dumb and self-absorbed, but slightly trampy. At the end of the book, I really, really wanted John T. Stone to put her back on the bus and go find himself an honest woman, one with some consideration for others. Not a great recommendation.

In fact, the only real recommendation I can give is that I think there are better ways to spend your $5.99.

--Cathy SOva

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