Learning Curve

A Small Town Temptation
by Terry McLaughlin
(Harl. Super #1488, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0373-71488-2
Not every woman can work as the boss on a concrete truck and come out smelling like roses.  Charlie (short for Charlene) Keene is co-owner of Keene Concrete with her mother and her brother David.  David wants to sell the business and go into art, his love.  Her mother is still recuperating from the death of her father, even though it has been two years.  She just wants everyone to be happy.  And since selling will make David happy and Charlie miserable, she is caught in no-man’s land.

Jack Maguire, representative for a big conglomerate in San Francisco, has come to this northern California slice of paradise called Carnelian Cove to explore the possibility of a takeover.  He has his choice between Keene’s and another concrete company, Bayside.  In fact, he might even get in a bidding war over Bayside with Charlie.  She hopes to buy the company when the owner retires and merge the two most prosperous businesses around.  But Jack has other ideas.  His company is an expert in buying and selling and at first, Jack sees this deal as just like any other, but meeting Charlie changes things.

Jack and Charlie hit it off exactly like sand and gravel do when mixed with water.  They seem to go together but there is a lot of mixing and a strong arm needed to make them really mesh together. The conflicts are set up and the sparks are ready to fly.

This was a very engaging story and seemed very realistic.  There is a lot of depth to the story. Charlie is dealing with her less-than-stellar romantic history while Jack is running from the pull of this small town.  He grew up in the south in a town just like this and he resents that he is so comfortable here and with Charlie.  Meanwhile, Maudie, Charlie’s mom, is dealing with her feelings about her life and an old flame that seems to be interested in moving their friendship into more friendly terms. Jack also has some pressure from his parent company and not all of it smells of roses. He has some tough choices to make and so does Charlie.

The strength of the story rests on the relationships and the way the story unfolds.  This is a really nice story…not just a bunch of words with coincidences and set ups as often seen in category romances.  Jack is a really good guy and he is fun to watch with Charlie as he first tries to charm her and then realizes he wants more.  Charlie is a tad stubborn, but she hasn’t had a lot of reasons to reach into her feminine side.  It was fun watching her emerge and become the full woman she always had in her.  Once they get together the pages seem to sizzle and their romance is evident and ready to roll. 

A Small Town Temptation could have fallen into clichés and been just another tale.  Instead McLaughlin pulled out the depth chart and made this story one that has plenty to search for and find. 

--Shirley Lyons

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