The Rocky Ridge Man
by Meredith March
(Harl. Tempt. #743, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-25843-7
***
Debut author Meredith March introduces us to two characters with explosive sexual chemistry, but whose past hurts almost ruin their relationship before it has a chance to flourish.

Advertising executive Sonya Duncan is in charge of a new ad campaign featuring Rocky Ridge jeans. What sounds like a dream assignment is anything butt -- pun intended. She’s got to find the ideal butt, one that will fill out those Rocky Ridge jeans so well that the ad campaign will be an unqualified success. Sonya is running out of applicants, with no Mr. Right in sight. With a possible vice-presidency riding on this campaign, she’s got to succeed.

Clint Silver is auditioning for the Rocky Ridge job because he’s desperate for money. If he didn’t need money to save his ranch, he’d never consider a modeling job, an occupation he considers useless. His future and that of his ten-year-old daughter are riding on this job.

Clint, with his rugged good looks and latent sexuality, is perfect, but Sonya doesn’t like him. He reminds her of the one-night stand cowboys who populated her mother’s unhappy life.

Well, Clint does get the job. However, it’s a mixed blessing. The money is important but so is his anonymity. Years before Clint had been seriously injured as he competed in the Olympics as a downhill racer. Clint’s injury ended his skiing career and his marriage. His wife, a superstar model, left him and their infant daughter. When she died from a drug overdose, the media pounced on him again.

Clint feels that he’s got to keep his identity a secret. His daughter doesn’t know about her mother’s tragic past. If his face isn’t photographed, then no one will know his identity or rehash his past. Now all he’s got to do is convince Sonya that an air of mystery surrounding the Rocky Ridge Man will enhance the campaign.

Sonya and Clint have a lot of prejudices and preconceived ideas to sort out. Sonya dislikes cowboys, yet finds herself inexorably attracted to one. Clint needs to avoid publicity; publicity is Sonya’s job. Clint lost his wife because she was obsessed with her job; Clint considers Sonya just as obsessed.

Irresistible forces and immovable objects are what we’re dealing with. Sometimes the ‘opposites attract’ scenario works. Here each character represents the worst in the other’s past. I found this too contrived and too involved to be effective as a believable conflict.

What really seemed the most unbelievable, so much so that it threw me off, was that Clint, chosen as the Rocky Ridge Man, was able to convince the ad people not to photograph his face. It seemed outlandish that Clint, who knew that TV and print ads were being used and badly needed the job, would be unwilling to have his face photographed.

Two secondary characters are worth mentioning because of their variance. Sonya’s assistant Neil is a delight as he tries to decide which male model he fancies. In counterpoint, Sonya’s sleaze boss is a caricature who’s more pathetic than vile.

Meredith March has talent. That’s a given. The premise of The Rocky Ridge Man was delightful, a charming role reversal. What’s wrong with ogling a sexy man? Nothing. Believable conflict along with more emphasis on the ‘like’ instead of the ‘lust’ would have made all the difference.

--Linda Mowery


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