For Keeps
by Janice Sims, contemporary (1999)
Arabesque, $4.99, ISBN 1-58314-034-4

The first few chapters of Janice Sims' For Keeps really ought to be read for its very funny lines alone. Written in first person (i.e I am telling the story style), the zany, no-nonsense, witty personality of heroine Cheyenne Roberts really shines.

She is summoned by her grandpa Slim who tells her melodramatic that this may be the last time she will see him. Fearing that he is asking her to deliver him into euthanasia as well as in concern, she flies home to Montana, back to her family farm. Thing is, the naughty old coot just wants to match her with a man fifteen years her senior. She likes older men, but fifteen years is pushing it a little.

Besides, she has her eyes on her brother's best buddy Jackson Kincaid. Cheyenne says:

At six foot four Jackson was six inches taller than I was, and in splendid physical condition. It'd been a while since I'd seen him naked. (I'd had that honor when I spied on him and a bunch of other teens while they skinny-dipped at Tucker's Creek). He was seventeen then. I was nine, and it was my opinion that nude males resembled frogs; frogs being the more attractive of the two. So I didn't fully appreciate the experience, not as much as I would if it happened to day.

Ahem. Frogs?

Funny, zany lines like these are peppered generously all over For Keeps. There's even tantalizing glimpses into the past when Cheyenne drops some anecdotes about her great-great gran Josie who was one spunky lady. If this book has a romance that stands up to the other (more) well-done elements of family and ranching life, it will be one excellent read.

But the romance just loses steam after a while. I have thought about it, and I think my fast lost of interest is due to the lack of any really dramatic tension to sustain my interest. You see, there's never any real threat to the family life of the Kincaids or the Roberts. If Slim may been stretching the farm mortgage, Cheyenne lets it be known early on that she can cover for everything. Likewise, everyone's pretty well-off in a sense that there is never any feel that they can be overwhelmed by any conflict.

And since Jackson is a perfect man with little flaws, the only conflict that stretched the relationship over two hundred plus pages is his commitment phobia. That's a lot of pages. Ultimately the push and pull between those two lovebirds become repetitious and even monotonous at times. I so want to step in and knock some senses in that man. What is he waiting for? She's a great catch!

Therefore, while the first half of For Keeps are classic fun stuff of family dramas, the later half with its lackluster relationships just flounders. What a waste.

Rating: 70

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