The You I Never Knew
by Susan Wiggs, contemporary (2001)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-60872-6

I've read several old Curtiss Ann Matlock series romances and I am suffering from cowboy overdose when I pick up Susan Wiggs' The You I Never Knew. And promptly reached for the TV remote control when I realized that Sam McPhee, the love interest of heroine Michelle Turner in this story, is one of those no-commitment look-ma-ain't-I-a-cool-rodeo-loner types.

Still, two days later when I pick up this book again, I still can't get into the whole look-ma-me-loner-woo-hoo shtick. And the whole small town lovey-dovey horses-and-steer scene is also starting to get to me. But what saves this story is the relationship between Michelle Turner and her father Gavin Slade. When TYINY concentrates on the romance, it becomes a depressingly boring secret-baby-and-cowboy romance. Yucks. But as a family story, stereotypical whiny teenage brat son notwithstanding, it's a good one.

Michelle Turner returns to Cowboytown - let me check, Crystal City actually, to donate her kidney to her father whom she has never seen for seventeen years. It's the usual family blues sad story between both. Michelle returns home and slowly mends her fences with her too-proud, too-stubborn father. Meantime, she also has to finish her tango with the cowboy who impregnated her and whom she left without telling him she was pregnant with his child. Sam decides to be a part of her rebellious son Cody's life, and the close proximity and the cowboy bluegrass music in the air make them both go mushy over each other.

I have the same problem with TYINY as I have with Ruth Wind's In The Midnight Rain - the non-romance aspects (the family ties) are very good, but when it comes to romance, it's a trip to Mediocre County. Michelle comes to life only when she is with her father or trying to fix things with her son, for only in those moments that she becomes real and heartbreaking to emphatize with. But when she is with Sam, she becomes flat. And Sam is a one-dimensional stereotypical cowboy figure - the less said of him, the better.

So on one hand, this is a lovely story of making peace and second chances, when one discovers that there is so much more to one's parent than one ever imagined. It's a lovely, poignant tale. On the other hand, it's also another one of those by-the-book "Yeah? I wanna do more than talk, Michelle!" cowboy yee-haa romance, which is not at all interesting.

Rating: 78

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