That McCloud Woman
by Peggy Moreland
(Sil. Desire # 1227, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76227-5
***
That McCloud Woman is Alayna McCloud, prettiest lady this side of the Mississippi. Or so Jack Cordell thinks. He's wandered into the tiny town of Driftwood, Texas, on the run from his job, his life, and mostly, his emotions. He spies Alayna in a diner and overhears that she needs a carpenter to help finish the remodeling of her house. Before he can examine his motives too closely, Jack offers his services.

Alayna accepts and Jack moves into a small room on the ranch to be near the work. He finds, to his surprise, that Alayna isn't alone. She has two small foster children with her, and desires to have more. The fact that she is a child psychologist with a doctorate also piques his interest.

The two kids, Billy and Molly, come from abusive homes. Neither one takes to Jack, a move I found refreshingly realistic. Jack is relieved. He's dealing with a painful loss of his own and doesn't want to get too close. Unwillingly, he's drawn to the kids, and one of the best scenes in the book involves his bonding with Billy over a pack of cigarettes behind the barn. Hilarious.

Jack's attraction to Alayna felt a bit less realistic. In fact, Alayna overall tended to be rather cardboard. She gorgeous, wants kids, is gentle and understanding and mothering, etc. but there were some big gaps in her story. Why would a child psychologist set up shop in a town with only several hundred residents? We never see Alayna do anything resembling work, so how does she support herself? She fusses around the house and goes into town a lot, meeting with cousins who supposedly were the heroines of other books, but there's little depth to her other than her emotional anguish at a broken marriage.

Jack is a standard wounded-hero type, too. His "I'll never love again" attitude and his deliberate emotional detachment wore thin pretty fast. The kids managed to save him, in more ways than one. Without them as a pivotal point, this would have been a difficult book to finish.

But you gotta love these kids! Kudos to the author for making them realistic and poignant. I wanted to take them home myself.

That McCloud Woman is standard romance fare with a few sprigs of fresh garnish, and will be a satisfying read for many readers.

--Cathy Sova


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