St Martin’s Press, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-97766-2
Paranormal Romance, 2001
Twenty-four year old Sophie Dolan is on the run with her four-year old half-sister Jenna when they come to Tanglewood, Nevada. Sophie is the new schoolmarm, a “widow” with a “daughter”, Jenna. Unfortunately, the day they arrive, Sophie gets, er, tangled up with Sheriff Ridge Hawkins in a fiasco that ends with him tearing her petticoats. Oops. It goes downhill from there. Worse, Jenna has the gift of the Sight, which, the way I see it, is she telling people of their unborn twins or talking to animals. Say, didn’t Shirley Temple and the Olsen twins do this horror story before?
Sophie and Jenna are on the run from Charles, their new guardian who wants to exploit Jenna for evil, like, er, I don’t know, predicting the lottery? Anyway, Charles won’t be giving up so easily, and our intelligent heroine who doesn’t even think of changing her name or Jenna’s will make it very hard for Charles to find them, so rest easy, gentle readers.
The best thing about this book is Ridge and Sophie bickering and bantering with each other. It’s cute, because Ridge is like an argumentative hen who keeps pouting because Sophie wouldn’t let him have the last word. The rest of the folks at Tanglewood are stock ye-small-town characters – the religious figure, the kind older woman who runs the boardinghouse, the busybodies – but they add to the color of the whole cheery mood in this story. And Ridge and Sophie have a friends-turn-lovers progression in their relationship that I enjoy reading. Standalone, Sophie is a nitwit, but with Ridge, she’s fun.
Jenna… ugh. At least the author sticks to Jenna acting four in her speech style, albeit a scary style meant to bludgeon me in the head with cuteness. While she doesn’t make me want to wave a crucifix before me, she… let’s just say if she gets her own story, chances are she’ll be that airy-fairy ethereal five year old girl stuck in a Playmate’s body.
Still, Just West of Heaven is a fun, breezy read. Just what I need, really.