The Mail-Order Mix-Up
by Pamela Toth
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1197, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24197-6
***
New Yorker Aurora Mancini arrives in Waterloo, Colorado, only to find out that she's stranded at the bus station. She and Charlie Winchester have been corresponding for several months, and he's sent a snapshot and an invitation to his ranch. Spotting a dusty pickup truck, she thinks her troubles are over. Nope, her adventure is just beginning.

Rancher Travis Winchester finds a note under his bedroom door from his younger brother Charlie. Charlie has invited a young woman to Colorado, but has apparently gotten cold feet and is hightailing it out of town, leaving Travis to clean up his mess. There's no bus for two days, it's the middle of fall roundup and Travis needs a cook. Guess what Rory did in New York? Worked in a diner as a short order cook. Travis reluctantly agrees that she can help him while they wait for Charlie to reappear.

While they're waiting, the inevitable happens. Each becomes aware of the other. Rory really does like this rancher and is transferring her affection to him. She and Charlie have enjoyed writing to each other, but they'd made no promises, so Rory has no problem with her attraction to Travis. Travis, however, isn't so sure. He's always come in second with women where Charlie is concerned. He's not certain that he'll be able to keep Rory's interest once Charlie returns.

Travis surprises himself and Rory when he proposes. Knowing that she won't be returning to New York, where only a philandering ex-husband awaits, she accepts. Their marriage of a few days duration has its first of many misunderstandings when the ex-husband leaves a message on Travis' answering machine, imploring Rory to return. Travis comes to the conclusion that any man would have worked for Rory. He's the multiple-choice husband.

More misunderstandings occur, most of them stemming from Travis' deep-rooted insecurity. Their mother abandoned Travis and his brothers, Adam and Charlie, years ago. A hard, unforgiving father brought them up. Travis has seen his mother leave, has seen his older brother Adam's wife leave and assumes that Rory will follow the pattern. He's also jealous when Charlie returns and assumes an easy, friendly, uncomplicated relationship with Rory.

Travis keeps misunderstanding Rory's friendship with Charlie, not knowing that she's seeking Charlie's advice and help on understanding Travis. Truthfully, Travis' lack of faith and insecurity ultimately became tedious. Nobody huffs and puffs, but Travis does spend lots of nights in the bunkhouse. Rory's repeated forbearance did surprise me, but she does realize that Travis is a keeper. She'll need to be patient. She's learned enough about his past that she realizes the cause of his insecurities.

Brothers Charlie and Adam are positioned perfectly for books of their own. They are each single, with enough depth and dimension to make their stories interesting. Travis and Rory do achieve that obligatory Happily Ever After ending, but not without a lot of Colorado potholes to block their way. The trouble is, Travis is the one with the pickax, digging most of the holes and setting up his own roadblocks.

--Linda Mowery


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