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Single Sheriff Seeks... by Jo Leigh
(Har. Tempt. #699, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25799-6
****
It's great to know that Jo Leigh is back, with her laugh-out-loud funny dialogue and wild plot lines that still have readers nodding their heads and saying "Yup, I can see that." Single Sheriff Seeks.. will strike a chord in any readers who grew up with that lamentable icon of American girlhood, the Barbie doll. I hereby dedicate this review to all readers who've ever wanted to see a Cellulite Barbie with sagging boobs and gray in her hair.

Annie Jones, sociology professor at Baylor, is about to indulge a dream and spend the summer teaching art to kids in a small town. Little does she know she's been set up. Annie plans to answer a singles ad from Texas Men magazine, in which the sheriff of this small town is looking for a girl and "pretty isn't as important as nice." Annie thinks she's a plain-Jane, so this ad seems tailor-made for her.

Sheriff Dan Collins has other ideas. He's been set up, too, and all he knows is he'd rather be home drinking a beer and petting his dog, not meeting some strange woman at a family barbecue. He almost manages to escape the clutches of his well-meaning family. Then he meets Annie. One look at her tall frame and shy smile, and he's tripping over the furniture and generally making a tongue-tied fool of himself. Not good for a man who's sworn off commitments to women.

Annie can't figure this guy out. He placed an ad, so is he interested or not? To top it off, she's living in the same apartment building as Dan, so she can hardly avoid him. And when a series of valuable collector Barbie dolls starts disappearing, half the town is pointing to Annie and demanding that Dan arrest the newcomer.

While Dan tries to get his foot out of his mouth and Annie tries to overcome her insecurity, more Barbies disappear. Dan knows Annie isn't the Barbie thief. But who is? And how can he keep Annie? And who would pay three thousand bucks for a plastic doll, anyway? What's going on in his little town?

Anyone who has ever known a collector of anything will hoot at some of the passages in this book. Jo Leigh paints a hysterical picture of grown women arguing over the fate of an eleven-inch doll ("This is an M.I.P! An N.R.F.B!" That's Mint-in-Package, Never Removed From Box to the rest of us non-collectors). My favorite scene was Annie and Dan good-naturedly arguing over who would staff a Barbie Dream Prison. Their conclusion G.I. Joe, anatomically incorrect had me grinning. When Annie points out that Barbie isn't exactly anatomically correct herself, at least in the proportion department, I laughed out loud. Ain't it the truth?

Small-town buttinskys weave in and out of the story, adding color and more humor. The ending was a bit overdone to my taste and seemed to take on a sitcom style; I felt at that point like I was watching a not-very-believable TV movie chase scene. But the rest of the story was a fun, fun read.

Looking for a light, entertaining story? Jo Leigh's lovable characters, fast action, and laugh-out-loud dialogue will keep you grinning. Single Sheriff Seeks is a winner.

Too bad Barbie can't talk I bet she'd agree.

--Cathy Sova


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