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The Lone Wolf

Unlikely Hero by Sandy Steen
(Harl. Tempt. #722, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25822-4
Unlikely Hero appears to be the final book about the hunks from Sweetwater Springs, Texas. After the Loving (HT 626) and The Lone Wolf (HT691) introduced us to Cade and Reese, friends of our current hero.

I'm a sucker for a book that allows me to enjoy the unfolding relationship, to watch with interest...no, to relish, as the two lovers discover the joys of what love is all about. Unlikely Hero had me right where I wanted to be...savoring a book because everything clicked.

PI Logan Walker needs a break. His last case ending up catapulting him in the media spotlight as he rescued a kidnapped child. He's headed from Denver to Sweetwater Springs in West Texas on his trusty Harley, with plans to enjoy his class reunion and kick back with some old friends.

Paige Davenport is running away from home. This poor little rich girl has finally reached the breaking point with the responsibilities that go along with her wealth and her Fahmily name. Catching her fiancÚ making it with her bridesmaid and knowing that her mother wants her to brush off fiancÚ's little indiscretion as 'wild oats' is the proverbial straw. With the help of a good friend, Paige is leaving Denver behind, heading to Houston for a job interview.

A few miles from Texline, Texas (what we Texans fondly call the middle of NOwhere), Paige's borrowed car breaks down. Two bad guys, Mean and Meaner, stop. Their idea of help is a little communal sex and helping themselves to her belongings. They're about to accomplish the first of their goals when our hero comes riding by and notices a damsel in distress. With great derring-do, he rescues her.

A few paragraphs later Paige discovers that Mean and Meaner have stolen all her money and credit cards. Plus, she can't even locate her good friend. After Logan quits drooling as he stares at Paige's legs, he offers to let her stay with him in his family home in Sweetwater Springs until her best friend can be reached. There's no way that Paige wants to contact her family. That would be an admission that she couldn't cope without them.

With no viable options, Paige accepts. She doesn't want to keep mooching off Logan, so she volunteers to do the only thing that she thinks she can do; she'll be the housekeeper. Okay, we know that she's never done any housework in her life and so, of course we have the obligatory scenes where she makes a mess, and he comes to the rescue, but this girl learns from her initial mistakes. She only knows how to cook bacon and eggs and nearly panics when Lincoln asks for pancakes, but a box of pancake mix saves the day. She reads the directions and makes perfectly edible pancakes.

I for one was applauding Ms. Steen at this point for not taking the predictable and ridiculous plot line of the total airhead. Later in that chapter when Logan sits down to a BLT sandwich, I had to smile. Paige is smart, with no airhead tendencies in sight.

The fact that Logan doesn't consider himself a hero, a good Samaritan, still doesn't stop him from coming to Paige's aid. In Lubbock, Paige suggests that's it's okay to drop her off at a shelter or the YWCA. A wave of protectiveness hit him like a tsunami. "Oh, right. Why don't I just find you a cardboard box and a cozy alley?"

A secondary plot line that could have blown up into something which dulled my pleasure thankfully never did. Logan's first wife was a money-grubbing shopping freak who soured him on rich women. He makes a few comparisons but realizes that he's way out of line. Paige is nothing like his first wife. The big misunderstanding reared its ugly head twice, but it's averted once and the second time it's given so little page space that it was resolved quickly and happily.

What make this story extra special was the writing, the insight into the characters. They're both good people, with a minimum of hang ups. Neither has made that totally idiotic vow that 'love done 'em wrong and they want no part of it.' They're both attractive, intelligent, interesting people that I'd like to know. It was easy to step into their story. That's the test of good writing to me. Am I able to step into the story, sometimes unknowingly, and just enjoy myself?

Walking through the magic door and stepping into Unlikely Hero was effortless. Stories that are this fun, this pleasurable to read, stories where almost everything clicks, come along too seldom.

--Linda Mowery

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