A Bachelor Falls

How to Catch a Cowboy

If Wishes Were...Weddings

His Shotgun Proposal
by Karen Toller Whittenburg
(Harl. American #877, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16877-2
His Shotgun Proposal is the third of four books in the Texas Sheiks series. Coming in on the third book definitely leaves me at a loss. It's very much like coming into the movie half way through or being seated in the theater at the beginning of the second act. In other words, I had no idea of the connections, the familial bonds and the history of these characters. Considering that my reaction to this story is less than enthusiastic, I guess not having read the first two books did cut down on my reading enjoyment.

But what lessened my enjoyment the most is the hero, the kind I've come to tolerate . . . barely. He's the one whose refrain is that he's been done wrong by a scheming woman, and therefore the entire species is lower than a snake's belly and is to be avoided emotionally at all costs. Now, carnal knowledge is a different ball of wax all together. That's okay. But the heroine will now pay for another woman's mistakes.

Abbie Jones is on her way to the Desert Rose, a friend's ranch, for much needed solace. She's pregnant and has just been fired from her teaching job at a pricey private girls' school. She also wants to avoid her buttinsky family, knowing that they'll see her as a damsel in distress and will come to her aid . . . by ramroding her life. So she's lied to them, telling them that she's a camp counselor for the summer in the Poconos, which is a far, far cry from Texas.

Coincidences can be tricky things. Imagine Abbie's surprise to discover that the person who's her escort to the Desert Rose is none other than the man with whom she spent a wonderful night five months ago, the man who's the father of her unborn baby. It seems that her mystery man, Mac Coleman, is a cousin of her good friend. Mac lives at the ranch, too, and is none too pleased to discover that his mystery woman is pregnant, all the while claiming that he's the daddy.

No way, Jose!

From here on out we're subjected to the thrust and parry of Mac's determination to avoid Abbie. He's indignant that she's at his ranch, indignant that she's claiming to carry his child, indignant that she's after his wealth, indignant that she's a lying tart who still interests him. For the most part Abbie handles his snotty attitude with aplomb. However, just how many times can a woman overlook hateful, childish behavior? I don't advocate violence, but there were times that I wanted her to haul off and knock the hell out of this holier-than-thou second son of a sheikh.

Eventually Abbie's four hulking brothers arrive on the scene, determined to do the right thing for Abbie's welfare. The trouble is that they don't ask her and then don't listen to her when she does voice her opinions. Mac has a mini-epiphany when he realizes that perhaps Abbie has been telling the truth about why she avoided him after their wonderful night together. But this revelation is still not enough for this hardheaded cretin, who still doubts Abbie's honesty.

If you notice that I've omitted large chunks of Mac's Sorajhee heritage, there's a reason. I didn't understand much of it. When I'm forced to stop my reading and absorb facts, then it suddenly feels too much like nonfiction. So I didn't stop, only slowed down enough to realize that I didn't have enough information for all of the puzzle pieces to fit together into a coherent package.

But even if I'd understood all of Mac's heritage, had understood the background of the Texas Sheikhs, it wouldn't have lessened my dislike of Mac. I don't do insufferable men. Abbie is the shining light of His Shotgun Proposal and the reason for its rating. Without her strength and maturity, my reaction to this story would have been lower.

--Linda Mowery

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