Under Prairie Skies
by Margot Dalton, contemporary (2000)
MIRA, $5.99, ISBN 1-55166-594-8

Before I go on, I must say this book finds the wrong audience in me. Readers more tolerant of the Uber-caregiver heroine and romances that deals with the hero pampering the woman with more patience than a saint would show would love this one, I think.

Enough fair play, let me take out my bloody surgical instruments.

Mara Steen nears 30 (tick, tick goes the biological clock) and she is a caregiver. She teaches kiddies in kindergarten. She takes care of her granny, whom she lets sabotages her pathetic attempts at relationships and whom she will never ever leave alone (or she'll feel guilty). Mother croaked and with no father, Mara is a prime candidate as a romance heroine, whom, as every romance reader knows, must have no reason to live except to Take Care Of Everybody (except herself).

So, since this is a romance novel, Mara wouldn't happen to find love after visiting a lesbian leather-and-Harley bar. No, she finds love in her most difficult student's daddy, Allan Williamson. Since he's a single daddy, of course he is a romantic, wealthy lonely man in need of a good woman's love, no thanks to that lousy dead woman who has the nerve to appear in a romance novel in a role other than a heroine.

This book drives home the fact that care-giving to the point of stupidity rules. And remember, single fatherhood is a glorious vocation (check his wallet first), but heaven have mercy on single mommies. Like the secondary heroine here, a pregnant college kid who is thrown out of her home for refusing an abortion. Abortion is evil after all, and The Rules say women who have sex before marriages to men other than Romance Heroes must be Saved From The Wrong Path. In comes the other hero to Redeem Our Heroine.

It's obvious I don't care about this book. It follows the Rules Of Contemporary Romances so faithfully, in simple black and white terms, that more often than not its unthinking adherence to the formula makes me feel insulted. Oh well, I'll just stop here before I degenerate into a shrieking, sermonizing mess.

My search for a contemporary that doesn't feel like a bad soap opera continues. Stay tuned.

Rating: 48

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