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The Bride Rode West

The Wrong Man in Wyoming
by Kristine Rolofson
(Harl. Temp. #692, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-5792-9
The Wrong Man in Wyoming is the fourth book in the "Boots and Booties" series, a series using one-word adjectives to describe the men. The Last Man in Montana (HT #617), The Only Man in Wyoming (HT #621) and The Next Man in Texas (HT #625) are the first three books. The series will continue in December with The Right Man in Montana (HT #712).

Usually I don't like to start a series on the fourth book, but I don't think I missed anything by coming in this late. I didn't get a sense of continuing characters or settings. Perhaps babies are the only connection. I really don't know. Whatever or not the connection is, this story stands on its own just fine.

Recently divorced Abby Andrews and her three children are driving through Wyoming to her mother's home in Spokane, Washington, when their van dies on the side of a deserted gravel road. The smoke pouring from the engine lets Abby know that things aren't looking too good.

Hope and help do arrive when Ty Monroe stops to offer his assistance. Abby doesn't know it, but Ty considers her and her family the answer to his prayers. He wants to marry his high school sweetheart, but his Uncle Jed, who owns the ranch where Ty works, thinks that Ty and Trish are too young to marry. Just that morning they had discussed that Uncle Jed needs a diversion, a woman . . . something to take his mind off Ty and Trish.

Circumstances work to Ty and Trish's advantage. Abby needs a job to afford a new car. Jed needs a cook. Thank goodness, this is not a scenario where Abby is a complete dolt in the kitchen. Nobody has to pretend to eat her cooking. She's a competent woman who's going to do a good job while she's the cook/housekeeper.

Two recurring threads add gentle humor to the story. Jed is bothered by Abby's nearness and decides that at forty, he's a confirmed, crusty bachelor. He asks Ty to get the foreman's house ready for Abby and her family to move into. Ty is aghast; that's the house that he's been secretly renovating for Trish when they marry. He invents tales of rat infestations, major leaks and anything else that comes to mind. I was waiting for the haunted house approach, but Ty is off the hook when Jed realizes that he has become deeply attached to Abby and her three kids. Their presence in his house is offering comfort and warmth which have been long missing.

The second thread is how Abby deals with the ranch chickens her kids have made pets of and the men's desire to eat fried chicken. Knowing that her children will be distraught if she fries up one of the pets, she takes great pains to buy chickens at the grocery store and then smuggle them into the house. I found this theme to be sweet and honest, knowing what mothers will do to spare their children unnecessary turmoil.

Two wounded people meeting and slowly realizing that happiness is right in front of them is not a new plot line. No surprises or originalities are present. Does this matter? Not a whit. Who cares when a writer allows us to connect with two good people. There's a realistic feel to the whole story. Abby and Jed don't fall in love at first sight. Sure, they find each other attractive and Jed spends a lot of time looking at her legs, but neither begins to weave fantasies about the other.

Abby's three kids never overwhelm the story. They're neither cloyingly sweet nor obnoxious brats. They're normal, healthy, happy kids. Abby's daughter Cass and Jed bond when Cass's nightmares about the bear rug in the front room cause Jed to cart it to another location where it will be 'happier.'

Trish and Ty's story is perhaps the only Pollyanna part to the whole book, the only weak part. I'm in agreement with Jed that these kids are too young to marry. Yes, this is a personal predilection. I would have preferred that they postpone their marriage, but Ms. Rolofson didn't ask me. Darn it!

The Wrong Man in Wyoming is what category romances are all about. While the title suggests that you'll be with the wrong man, don't believe it for a minute. This is a satisfying story which can be read and enjoyed in one sitting. That's exactly what I was able to do and what I recommend for you. It will be time well-spent.

--Linda Mowery

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