January 2008, Series Romance
Harl Superromance #1470, $5.50, 256 pages, Amazon ASIN 037371470X
--CAUTION: SECRET BABY AHEAD. WATCH OUT FOR BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS--
I know, I know. What did I think I was getting when I read the plot description? Optimistically, I still went with it like that ex-boyfriend you keep going back to because you think he just might have changed. Only to realize too late that he is still a jerk. Yes, Texas Bluff is the secret baby book that gives secret baby books a bad name.
Luke Chisum is back on his family’s Texas ranch after serving in the army for 16 years. His father's not dealing well with his recent stroke, his brother treats him like a combination of a six-year-old and something he stepped in at the corral, and the only girl he ever loved - who broke his heart and made him join the service. It’s not a pretty picture. Back in high school Luke took a dare to go out with the local sheriff’s daughter. He went with the dare, but found something more with Becky and the two started a meaningful relationship. Until it all blew up when Becky found out about the initial bet. She ran off and was quickly seen in the arms of another guy, leaving Luke floored.
Becky, for her part, was dealt a low blow to her pride. Learning that she was pregnant after they broke up didn’t help matters. Just as she was summoning the courage to tell Luke about the baby, he went off to boot camp. She then married a good friend who promised to raise the child as his own. Even after she divorces her husband, she can't summon the courage to find a way to contact Luke and tell him he has a son.
And 16 years go by.
Besides the unbelievably of Becky not coming clean or trying to contact Luke for that long, my biggest issue is with Luke - or lack of Luke, for that matter. While we are in his head for biggest chunk of the page count, I can’t summon up a decent adjective for him. I felt sorry for him, sure, but it was more like the pity you feel when you see a turtle stuck upside down, unable to right himself. I say this because Luke gets another shocker (to him, not the reader if you have any type of good observation skills) shortly before Becky drops her bomb. We see him upset, in shock, upset again, and eventually coming to terms with his new situations. But that’s it for Luke’s character traits. Luke himself is a non-entity. This is not good for the lead character.
Becky? She’s a doormat. A doormat who throws out the fact that she has been in a loving relationship with a boy for months because he initially took a dare to go out on one date. One date. For someone who was supposed to be brainy, she sure wasn’t thinking very straight. I wasn’t impressed with any of her groveling and think Luke would be better off with one of the local barmaids.
This is the section I usually use to point out a novel's flaws. As you can see, the bad far outweighed the good. That said, a turning point occurs on page 118 (I made note of this page as it is when I caught myself actually wanting to finish the book rather than toss it against the wall). The side plot regarding Luke and his brother held my interest, even if I saw the big twist coming miles away. But, well…that’s all I got for the good. And it’s a stretch.
I might not be inclined to reading series romance, but I have read quite a few good ones in the past. I know now to stay far, far away from secret babies unless I get some very serious recommendations. Texas Bluff is not a good read, or even a mediocre one; it is one to be passed.
-- Lisa Gardineer
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