by Debra Dixon, contemporary (1995)
Loveswept, $3.50, ISBN 0-553-44432-8
Doc Holiday actually refers to the heroine, Taylor Bishop. As someone who had taken care of her brother and her brothers after the death of her beloved mother, she feels a little bittersweet this particular Christmas holiday season. Two of her brothers have married, so she is starting to feel that her territory is being encroached by their wives. She doesn't want any commitment that comes with heavy responsibilities after sacrificing much of her own dreams and ambitions to take care of the guys, but now that her brothers are all grown up, some with wives that have taken over the caring and feeding of those men, she wonders what she should do now.
I feel a twinge of sadness for Taylor, because even now, those men are still taking her for granted. They expect her to cook, clean, and take care of everything while they kick back and watch the world go by on their TV screens. When her teenage crush Drew Haywood asks her to help him give his son Noah the best Christmas ever, perhaps I should be happy for her, but I can't bring myself to feel that way.
You see, Taylor doesn't really have a choice in this story. She doesn't want to be tied down to a man with a child, because she tells herself that she doesn't want to spend more of her life taking care of people. But Drew guilt-trips her into helping him by telling her family about his need of Taylor's help after she has told him that she can't help him. She can't say no to him then. And when we have Noah who screams and sobs every time he thinks that Taylor will leave him, the poor woman doesn't have the chance to walk away from Drew and his son without coming off like a heartless gorgon.
To make things worse, Drew doesn't listen to her at all. He steamrollers over her wishes, her desires, and her ambitions. This is a man who, upon seeing how gorgeous the heroine is now that she's grown up, decides to pursue her. Since he knows that she had a crush on him when she was 16, he also knows now that she must be lying when she tells him that she doesn't want to be tied down to a man like him. Even their kiss happens due to his emotional manipulation, using Noah as a trump card to prevent Taylor from saying no to his insistence that they kiss. Initially, I was puzzled by Drew's hasty insistence on getting involved with Taylor so soon after he has had such a terrible marriage with a cartoon ex-wife. But if this is how he goes about in his relationship with women, no wonder he ended up with the wrong woman the last time around. He doesn't even care to know Taylor or to respect her desires, as it's all about him when it comes to romance. Who cares what the woman wants or what she really is like? He wants, he gets.
Between a manipulative hero and a wildly emotional brat who throws loud tearful tantrums every time Taylor attempts to walk away, the heroine doesn't have a chance to say no. She has to accept that it's "right" to marry Drew and mother Noah. Of course, the author says that deep inside, Taylor really wants these things, but that's hardly any consolation when the story doesn't allow Taylor to do anything else without being a villain.
Doc Holiday could have been a sweet and saccharine tale about the joys of mothering both husband and stepchild, but somehow, poor Taylor comes off like a martyr instead. I close the book feeling sorry for her as well as a vague distaste for the way the author has forced the heroine into this "heartwarming" romance with that creepy manipulative hero and his equally creepy crybaby brat.
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