Desert Isle Keeper Review

Hold on Tight

Deborah Smith
April 1988, Series Romance
Loveswept #255, $2.50, 183 pages, Amazon ASIN 0553218948
Part of a series

Grade: A
Sensuality: Warm

I have to admit, I was thinking of giving up on Deborah Smith. Though I loved A Place to Call Home, I haven't been wowed by a book of hers since, and I was losing my enthusiasm for her writing. But I had this old Loveswept, Hold on Tight, in my TBR, and I thought, "Oh, what the heck. I'll give her one more try. What can it hurt?" Was I glad I did!. The book was a joy to read.

Rucker McClure, syndicated humorist and author, is surprised when he receives some interesting feedback on a recent column. When he made light fun of a local Possum Days celebration, he didn't realize that the town's mayor would take exception to his comments. When he receives a live possum along with a letter of objection, he decides that he has got to see what this Mayor Dinah Sheridan is really like.

Dinah is fully prepared to dislike Rucker, but when he brings his new pet opossum to her city council meeting on a leash, she can't help but laugh. He isn't anything she's looking for - he's happy-go-lucky redneck to her carefully poised and manicured ex-beauty-queen self - and she really doesn't need a reporter to poke into her past, but he's just so durned irresistible. Can they negotiate their differences and let love elbow its way in?

Rucker himself is the biggest part of this book's appeal. Dinah is a good heroine. She's likable, admirable, and sympathetic, but she didn't have the same presence Rucker did. He was truly Larger Than Life. He laughed and joked, he pleasantly bullied Dinah with his good-ole-boy charm and Southern redneck rhetoric, and he was sensitive and yet occasionally clumsy. He was the most refreshingly different hero I've read in a long time. That he bore no small resemblance to Frank B. Gilbreth, Sr. of Cheaper by the Dozen renown only made him more enjoyable. * I've always wondered what Papa Gilbreth would be like if he had been born in the South circa 1955. Now I know.

The air of melancholy, of lost opportunities and regrets, that permeates Smith's four contemporary books, is thankfully absent here. Rucker and Dinah are people of substance, and difficult things have happened to both of them, but both of them have positive, forward-looking attitudes, and the book itself is joyful and full of humor. And who knew Smith could be so funny? Rucker and Dinah spar on par with the best of 'em.

Quibbles? Not really. The final love scene was perhaps unnecessary, but it was no burden to read. There was much opportunity for Big Misunderstanding in this plot, but thankfully, Smith did not go that route. Dinah and Rucker tried to communicate with each other and kept trying, even though they didn't always succeed.

Hold on Tight was just a very, very enjoyable way to spend an evening. I think it's destined to become a comfort read for me, since it's so light and fun and sweet. I think that Smith has a lot of talent as an author, but I haven't loved all of her recent plots. Now that I know she was so deft at writing categories, I am looking forward to exploring her category backlist.

* Frank Gilbreth and his wife were pioneers in the study of scientific management in the early 20th century (think "time/motion studies" and Fredrick Winslow Taylor if you've ever studied this in college or grad school). The book Cheaper by the Dozen, written by two of the twelve Gilbreth children, is all about life with a father who believed he could run a family like a factory, all while acting like a kid himself.

-- Rachel Potter

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