The Cowboy Fling
by Dawn Atkins, contemporary (2002)
Harlequin Temptation, $3.99, ISBN 0-373-25971-9


I once dragged a vet from the nearest clinic (an hour away from the highway) to put to sleep a poor dog whose skull had partially cracked open and its brain was already infested with maggots. Still, the pity the poor dog aroused in me is nothing compared to the way I stare, aghast, at the heroine Lacey Wellington, MBA Holder.

Lacey may be an MBA holder (as the author Dawn Atkins will keep reminding readers again and again), but she displays a keen intellect one could attain only after years of severe brain damage from heroin addiction. Or after being walloped by a baseball bat held by a mighty berserker. After ten pages into this book, I swear that someone is singing Guantanamera in my head.

Maybe MBA stands for Me Braindead Already, or Mistress of Baloney Antics.

See, Lacey wants to be independent. So, she decides to leave her cushy family job to build up her Uncle Jasper's cafe. Never mind that the cafe is in the middle of nowhere, she will turn it into a poet's hangout. I could have told her that the only reason artistic fellows will drive miles out to the middle of nowhere that is her cafe is if she stocks up with prime selection of Tijuana's finest, but that stupid woman stocks up on coffee instead. Worse, she can't even operate the coffee maker, one of the many machinery she can't handle, hence her Instant Coffee tastes like a food poisoning accident.

She will open that cafe in two months time. Ha, ha, ha.

Oh, and her sole employee ignores her. Smart guy. When Lacey finally wrangles a weak compromise from him, she beams. She has matched a guy to a job he is better suited for. MBA vindication! Yeah, More Braindead Antics.

She wants to have a fling now. She has the eye on that cowboy, Max McLane, whom she knows is the Last Independent Man the moment she sets eyes on him. Unfortunately, Max is actually her brother's friend who is sent here, unknown to her, to take care of her. Our MBA holder heroine here is miscalculating her budgets, making impractical business decisions, and she's ripe for a crash and burn. What does our hero do? Does an Arthur Anderson on her account books while serving as her human vibrator. If you have been burned by Enron or Worldcom, you may want some fortifying drink before you tackle this book.

I'm all for growing up. In fact, Lacey, a woman whom in real life will be called "simple" (if you want me to be kind), is the perfect candidate to grow up. But the author has everyone around Lacey coddling and protecting her. Heck, she has a fling with her assigned bodyguard, hasn't she? The happy ending Lacey gets is one that she attains despite of her actions - her boyfriend and her big brother are always there, her safety net from her own stupidity.

MBA huh? There you go. All the jokes you need to make fun of the sorry state of today's education. The only reason why this book isn't completely ripped apart by me is that I'm in a good mood. Consider yourself lucky, Lacey - I'm too busy doing my Bonnie Tyler impersonation to be truly evil.

Rating: 44


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