Before Sunrise


Lord of the Desert

Matt Caldwell:
Texas Tycoon

Midnight Rider

Paper Rose

Once in Paris

The Winter Soldier

Lawman by Diana Palmer
(HQN, $24.95, PG) ISBN 0-373-77238-6
I have always enjoyed Diana Palmer’s look at tough but gentle lawmen. This Lawman, however, is a little colder and more obtuse than most. He takes too long to figure things out and is a bit rough on the lady. At the same time, there are some disturbing images of a brutal crime that may cause some discomfort. Add in a little too much sentimentality and you have a good book but one that doesn’t quite deliver like some of her others.

Grace Carver is a spinster who lives in little Jacobsville, Texas, taking care of her grandmother. When the older woman dies, the only one sad is Grace. And most of that sadness is due to the fact that she is now all alone, except for a cousin thousands of miles away. Grace has a unique past. She was the victim of a crime as a child that left her scarred both emotionally and physically. She works two part-time jobs, and in many ways has been taken care of by the townspeople to make up for the rude treatment she received from her drunken grandmother.

FBI Agent Garon Grier comes to Jacobsville for a variety of reasons. He has a brother here who is the sheriff and is newly married. They have never been close but things could change. He is looking for something and thinks he might find it on a ranch. He is immediately attracted to Grace even though she dresses like a spinster and downplays her pretty blond hair and bluish grey eyes.

Garon is also helping to investigate the brutal murder of a child. The murderer used a red ribbon to strangle the child and it appears it might be the work of a serial killer. They find evidence that similar crimes have occurred in the last 12 years, one child a year. Meanwhile, things heat up between Grace and Garon, but Garon gets scared of the intensity of their feelings. Even after sleeping with her, he tells her he doesn’t want her and he publicly embarrasses her several times, accusing her of stalking him. In actuality, she is hurt and wants to avoid him, but in a small town that is hard to do.

Garon has issues from his past, too. He lost his wife and newly born child after his wife was diagnosed with cancer mid-way through her pregnancy. He has sworn to never get so involved as to be so hurt again. When Grace unexpectedly becomes pregnant, things get interesting.

The story moves along both on the tale of the characters and the investigation. The narrative is from both sides and the reader is drawn in by their attraction and the intensity of their feelings. At times, it is hard not to pity Grace and this is not necessarily how I want to feel about the heroine. On the other hand, Garon is extremely rude to Grace and hurts her with some strong emotional baggage. That doesn’t endear him to me either, despite how much he grovels trying to make it up to her.

There is an uneven feel to the book, partly created by the fact that we know most of the secrets and the one about Grace that is kept to the end is pretty obvious. The townspeople protect Grace and she allows this while at the same time wanting to be an independent woman. There are scenes when Grace and Garon are dating that people tease her about having a boyfriend. She is twenty-four years old; some of their reactions and interactions were almost patronizing and I wanted Grace to speak up and tell them to let her be. But she never did. At the same time, they rally around her and rightfully make Garon the villain when he splits with her. Grace is a unique combination of grit and vulnerability and I did like her.

Lawman is a good story. It doesn’t compare to some of Palmer’s other tales, but it is a worthwhile reading experience.

--Shirley Lyons

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