Stand By Your Man
by Nancy Bartholomew, contemporary (2001)
Harper, $6.50, ISBN 0-06-101410-9

As a sequel to the delightful Your Cheatin' Heart (and if you haven't read Cheatin', do that first before reading Stand By Your Man), Stand By Your Man is a complete "Huh?". It's as if the author has fallen down, hit her head hard, and has amnesia where the characters of her first Maggie Reid book was concerned. I can't think of any other explanation - except maybe alien body invasion - to explain how Maggie Reid and Marshall Weathers have mutated from fun characters into humorless, unlikable prigs in just one year.

In the last book, Maggie solved the mystery of her ex-brother-in-law's death but her ex Vernell has gone missing. She almost hooked up with cowboy detective Marshall in the last book too. But in this book, Maggie spends the entire time telling me that she needs to find Vernell. The man cheated on her left and right, but she knows he loves her and she will get him back. For daughter Sheila, of course. Winston starts sneering and lying and holding back information on Maggie. They may consummate their relationship here, but I am too disgusted by this author's not-so-subtle attempts to pop in red herrings (in the form of a biker PI and Maggie's budding relationship) to actually care. Not when those two are back at snapping at each other in the morning.

Oh yeah, the plot involves Maggie needing to find Vernell because people will probably do bad things to her if she doesn't find him fast. That's it. Which gives Maggie plenty of opportunities to whine, shriek, wring her hands, and weeps herself silly. When Marshall finally handcuffs Vernell, she tells Marshall, "That's it! We're so over!"

I have no idea who this Maggie who keeps believing the best in worst men is. I have no idea who this cold, humorless, and arrogant Marshall is. But I do know one thing: I'm not staying around for the next installment. Bye bye, Maggie and gang - it was fun before Alzheimer's became an epidermic with you all.

Oh, and the way the resolution of this book is so similar to that of the last book - that sucks too.

Rating: 42

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