The Ladies' Man
by Lorraine Heath, historical (1995)
Jove, $4.99, ISBN 0-515-11636-X

The Datry family is a strange lot indeed. With way too much money, they devise some really weird ways to find true love, yes indeed. The whole Sons And Daughters installment deals with this family's coming-of-age ceremony, where at one's 20th birthday, each Daltry would get a "quest" from Granny Daltry to teach them about life and love. Lorraine Heath's contribution to this series is The Ladies' Man.

Hercules "Lee" Daltry (every Daltry is named after some Greek mythical figure) is given the mission to teach in the local school as soon as he reached 20. Oh boy. Wouldn't ritual circumcision be easier? Especially since while Lee is an incorrigible flirt, he is more at ease around horses and women than kids. So he hooks up with new schoolmarm Meredith Lewis for lessons. He teaches her quite a lot of things too. And along the way to true love, they adopt Jimmy, the local stray, make some reforms in the education system, and walk around the beautiful Texan countryside.

The Ladies' Man is pure romance. No mad daddy/old boyfriend/outlaw coming in to mess things up. Instead we have Lee wearing down Meredith's inhibitions (bad experience with a man in her past, the usual) and teaching young, stereotypical stray brat Jimmy not to steal. Meredith sings the Mary Poppins theme song as she steps into the super teacher role, and what do you know, she's also a perfect Delilah in the bedroom.

All typical Americana schoolmarm-and-the-rich-dude romance that is more than adequate to whet my romance fix, of course. Ms Heath's style does bring to life the whole tired plot, and no matter how typical Jimmy is, he succeeds in charming me.

But Lee is 20. Sure he talks smooth, and he is built like his namesake in every way (ahem) but he never convinces me that he is more than 20. In any other book and any other age, that's a good thing, but heck, he's 20. Why would a schoolmarm who craves security shack up with a 20-year old? He calls her "Red" and flirts like a polished 20-year old. Ugh. How much fun can 20-year olds be? (Apologies to 20-year old men, it's just me, not you. Just me and your age).

Every other paragraph has me hearing my prejudice scream in my head - He's only 20! - thus distracting me utterly. And I find myself feeling quite sorry for Lee's brother, CJ, for whom the C stands for Cupid. Ugh. One of these days I anticipate a huge lawsuit from the Daltry men on their parents.

The whole premise of this book works against itself from the start where this reader is concerned. I keep giggling whenever I imagine Meredith screaming things like "Ooh, Hercules! You are the man indeed!" in bed, and I wonder what they would call their kids. Cupid is bad enough, but I will really feel sorry for anyone who ends up with, say, Oedipus or Pluto.

Then there's the 20-year old man/boy thing.

You know, maybe they should have asked Granny Daltry to stick to circumcision instead.

Rating: 78

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