The Best Husband in Texas
by Lass Small
(Silh. Desire #1201, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-76201-1
***
Appreciating the writing of Lass Small is a bit like eating hot jalapeno peppers. Some people would eat them on everything, scrambled eggs included. Others can take them or leave them, depending on their mood, while another group wonders how anybody could enjoy them. I always find myself in the middle group.

I enjoy reading Lass Small. She writes in an uncomplicated manner, without artifice or guile. I always know that I'm going to read something that's a bit different, sometimes with a damsel in seeming distress and with a hero who's droll but masculine to the bone. There's a gentleness to her stories, a insight based on whimsy and affection. Everything is seen through rose colored glasses. Her characters are so unique that we'd be unlikely to find their counterparts in real life. They're found only on the pages of a Lass Small book But I always enjoy her books for the brief time it takes to read them. And how can I not love a writer who always capitalizes the name of my great state, TEXAS.

The story line for The Best Husband in Texas is really quite simple. At twenty-four, Iris Smith has been widowed three times. Husband number one died in the Gulf War. Husband number two died of complications from the Gulf War. Husband number three died in a freak rodeo accident. Iris has returned home to be with her family and is in a deep blue funk. They're really worried. Nothing seems to be getting through to Iris. She's wasting away before their eyes.

Neighbor Austin Farrell has been in love with Iris for as long as he can remember. Now that she's back home, he's bound and determined that she won't marry somebody else this time. He'll be number four if this man has any say-so in the matter. And you can bet the farm that he'll succeed. After all, he's a TEXAN.

In Lass Small's books is that there are very few misunderstandings, deceptions or other plot clichés that can ruin a good story. Here we know that Iris is reluctant to marry again, with good reason. She's buried three young, good men. When escaped convicts take Austin hostage, I never worried for a minute that this would be a setup for Iris, who, with hand on forehead would moan, "Oh, woe is I. Austin may be killed. I can't love him. I can't love anybody." No, Iris has bounced back to the land of the living so completely that her attitude is refreshingly honest.

What's intriguing about Lass Small's writing is how it's changed. I first discovered her years ago when her writing wasn't as it is today – a choppy, shortened staccato style. She was writing keepers like Collaboration, which incidentally is about a romance author teaming up with a science fiction writer or Tangled Web, an early Silhouette Desire. Throughout all of her more than fifty books, her writing style has changed. It's now filled with laconic, terse sentences and fanciful dialog that I doubt you'd hear anywhere in TEXAS or Indiana, another one of her favorite locales. This change isn't necessarily bad. I've been reading her for so long that it's been gradual. Some people find it off-putting. It is distinctive and easily recognizable.

He gasped. He licked his lips. He stared. He was wobbled.
or
Austin sighed rather dramatically, jammed his hands deeper into his trouser pockets and was stern with his eager body, which was willing. Ready. Anxious. Ah, hell. She had him in the palm of her hand.

Enjoying Lass Small's books is definitely an acquired taste. It's a rare person who starts out enjoying jalapeno peppers. Check out some of her older stories or her books under the name of Cally Hughes. She has given me enough enjoyment in the past that I read her books now with a kinder eye. I really like her rose-colored view of the world. When you need a story that will 'take you away' or add some zing, she's the author to try.

--Linda Mowery


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