A Cowboy's Heart
by Liz Ireland, historical (1999)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29066-7

The first thing that struck me is how 1980s the book cover looks. If it was not tucked in the new-ish section in my local Borders, I wouldn't give it a look. As it was, I had to look at the copyright date just to be sure. Another thing that struck me is how McDonald's-ish is Harlequin/Silhouette/Mira has become. I look at all the advertisements at the front and few back pages and thought Wow! These folks churn out books happy-meal style. Lots of packaging, and even more gimmicks. A 12-book continuity series... buy all 12 folks! One book out every month! Collect 'em all!

Oops. I got sidetracked. Anyway, it's a shame this book will probably get lost in the deluge of happy-meals packaging and silly gimmicks. Probably only those home subscribers will bother with this book, and it's a pity because this book is pretty good. It's like watching a rodeo, reading this book has me chuckling all the way.

Imagine this, you're the town sheriff eager to rescue your ex-fiancée who may be kidnapped by the local Indian terrorist. You have an obligation to her father to take care of her after his death after all. You'd want a nice big troop of men to back you up right? But Will Brockett, sheriff of Dry Wallow, population miniscule and cowardly, has only a rag-tag group of a young tomboy (our heroine Paulie Johnson), an old grumpy whiskey seller (that's Oat, the missing woman Mary Ann's hubby), and a reluctant and incapable Trip (Paulie's buddy). Dirty Quartet to the rescue.

And Will is not happy. The first day these three people make enough noise to alert the villains all the way to China. And Paulie, who is always a tomboyish baby sister to him, seems to have bloomed into a rather attractive woman. Those legs... wow-ee.

And Paulie, she has a plan. She has been in love with Will all this while, and now she wants to act on her attraction. She'd dress up all feminine and make him see her as the woman she is. Only thing is, all he noticed is her horrendous hair (a curling attempt went awry). Worse, Will and Trip discusses eligible females for marriage and claims the only eligible wife material is some spinster woman up north. Paulie sees red. If she helps Will find Mary Ann and returns Mary Ann to her husband Oat, maybe Will would see that Mary Ann is out of reach and he will finally turn his manly attention to Paulie.

Paulie knows Will feels obliged to marry Mary Ann. She wonders if Will is in love with that spoiled woman. Will wonders if Paulie is in love with Trip. This is the main Big Misunderstanding premise that eventually drags the book at the end from making this a keeper for me. However, A Cowboy's Heart is really fun to read. Paulie is a wonderful heroine, feisty, intelligent, and best of all, she never does stupid things. In fact, she most often comes to the rescue. I admire this woman who knows what she wants, and works on getting it. Paulie is a salon owner who can cut the deck of cards and drown a gallon of whiskey like the boys. No simpering debutantes here. Paulie has her eyes set on lassoing Will to the altar, and Will has no hope of salvation in sight. It's a hilarious ride all the way. Sometimes the fast pace has me wondering what the heck is going on, but hey, who cares! I'm enjoying myself tremendously.

Having said that, I must say this book suffers from what I call the Helena-Demetrius syndrome. Paulie is intelligent. What on earth does she see in an obtuse, befuddled, and incompetent sheriff like Will Brockett I will never know. Will is the worst reader of human body language and behavior - ever. He could mistake a conversation between Trip and Paulie as lover's intimacy. He sees Mary Ann as a misunderstood woman when the whole world and her granny know that woman is a user and a spoiled witch. Will ends up as sharp as a beach ball and as obtuse as the Great Wall of China. I can't help feeling Paulie has her eyes set on Will because he is the only eligible and good looking man in Dry Wallow. Go to Boston, girl!

A Cowboy's Heart is a fast-paced and entertaining read. I only wish the hero is a more memorable and capable fellow.

Rating: 68

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