Lone Star Christmas

Lord of the Desert

Matt Caldwell:
Texas Tycoon

Midnight Rider

Paper Rose

Once in Paris

The Savage Heart

The Winter Soldier by Diana Palmer
(Silh. Desire #1351, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-76351-4
The Winter Soldier is the fifth in Diana Palmer's Soldier of Fortune series. Three of the original books, dating from 1985 and 1988, were released in an anthology in 2000, Soldiers of Fortune. It's been a while since I've read any of Ms. Palmer's books and don't have any background knowledge about the Soldiers of Fortune series. I don't know if this book is connected with the others in the series or if I'm missing anything by not being a Soldiers of Fortune afficionado.

All I know that I've grown a bit weary of Diana Palmer's cookie cutter heroes, those world-weary men who don't want another lasting relationship with a woman. The reasons may vary for that lack of interest in a relationship, but their reaction is always the same. Women are okay to desire and to bed, but watch all you hold dear if one of them gets her claws into you!

Lisa Taylor Monroe is a recently widowed young woman who isn't going to be able to keep her family's ranch. She has no deep attachment to it and accepts neighbor Cy Parks' offer to buy her out. That solves one problem for her.

Another and bigger problem is that her late husband may have angered a South American drug lord, one who has no problem in killing entire families in retaliation. So it seems that Lisa has been targeted by a drug lord, is losing her home and is pregnant.

Neighbor and ex-mercenary Cy will come to Lisa's rescue yet again. He's going to offer her marriage. That's one way that he can keep her safe. Of course it'll be a marriage of convenience. Ol' Cy won't give in to lust. His ex-wife was lower on the evolutionary scale than road kill, so all women must be akin to flattened dead animals, too. And can't be trusted. And are to be avoided emotionally. And yadda yadda.

Lisa accepts Cy's proposal, all the while knowing that this quiet, steadfast man is just what she wants. And she knows that, despite his protests, he wants her, too.

Lisa's widowhood is summarily dismissed. She'd married the guy because he seemed her last chance. At twenty-one? If she's an unhappy, grieving widow, I must have missed the sentence describing it. Lisa is described as a heroine who outwardly appears to be naive, but has the backbone of steel. She has to­someone has to have the brains and maturity in this relationship because Cy often reacts in a self-defensive, self-protective manner. Why is it that in Romance Land, it's easier for a man to face the business end of a gun than to admit that he cares for a woman?

The whole section regarding Lisa's pregnancy and Cy's reaction to it is creepy. While I won't give away any secrets, I was very disappointed with the mentality regarding her pregnancy and the self-serving way the problems are concluded.

The main reason that I'm giving The Winter Soldier a low rating is for its lack of originality. This is almost a Mr. Potato Head story. Interchange a nose, hat and ears and Voilą, a new story. Not quite! If you're a fan of Diana Palmer, then you know what you're getting - the same-old, same-old. If you'd like something with a spark of originality, with characters who are drawn with a smidgeon of realism, look elsewhere. You aren't going to find it in The Winter Soldier.

--Linda Mowery

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