2000 Kisses
by Christina Skye, contemporary (1999)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 0-440-23571-5

There's probably no real cowboy more cowboy than Sheriff TJ McCall. He wears cowboy boots, hates outsiders coming to Almost, Arizona, population stereotypical, and thinks every City Girl's a spoiled floozy. He is charged to protect Tess O'Mara, said City Girl from the godawful, unromantic Boston, when Tess finds one million dollars accidentally credited into her bank account (thank you Y2K bugsie). She's now a wanted woman as the money belongs to people not exactly chummy with the law. Tess and TJ snog, experience some paranormal past-life thingie, encounter some American Indian magic and singing coyotes (okay, no singing coyotes). The Road Runner (beep beep) is on medical leave.

Cowboys have never been more romanticized. Nor has the goodness that is cowboy been shoved down my throat this forcefully since Dallas. TJ looks like Mel Gibson, talks like a cross between a jingoistic redneck and a tough macho hunk (he makes allowances for his liking Darn City Folk Tess because she sashays in them fine threads so good), and to emphasize the goodness of everything cowboy, TJ keeps rescuing Tess again and again and again and yet again from all sorts of trouble.

Good old Tess, the woman who has me thinking she's actually human when she declares in the first line of the book Some things are better than sex. Turns out the thing is a - what else? A cowboy. Tess wears what seems like the entire catalog of Eskimo Fashion Parade to Almost and collapses conveniently into TJ.

Cowboys and their well-filled jeans and their boots and hats and bluster. Too bad I don't really buy those things, hence I can't help noticing TJ and Tess' rather boring characterization and the ho-hum Rescue The City Girl, Cowboy! plot. I especially don't think a town without a super-duper shopping mall and cineplexes and a large bookstore as romantic. In Almost, the people sit around all day gossiping and lolling around the sun with the occasional work thrown in (fixing Tess' car, for one). Are these people all on welfare or something? All they do is gossiping and matchmaking TJ with a woman they don't know. Good thing she's not a serial killer.

So I won't exactly be running off to Cowboy Country and do a honky-tonky dance or anything, despite the book's glamorizing of cowboys and their manliness and big trucks and everything. Unless the cowboy looks like Harry Connick, Jr, but let's not go there.

Rating: 62

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