A COWBOY AT HEART by Judy Christenberry (see her website)Harlequin American, May, 1998
Sparks fly when beautiful "Princess Beth" of Cargenia visits her fiance Pete (Lord Peter) Morris. The only problem is that the princess is really a former model, Liz Caine from Kansas who had been hired to stand in for the princess. Pete had only agreed to consider the marriage when his mother had threatened to sell the ranch he loves if he didn't go along with her match-making. He certainly didn't expect to be attracted, let alone fall in love. Liz knows her increasing love for Pete is an impossible dream. Not only is he intended for another woman, he's intended for her employer. She'd doubly betray her morals if she allows anything to happen. But when he kisses her, rational thought is the last thing on her mind. And he kisses her a lot.
Judy Christenberry (see also BooksForABuck.com reviews of other novels by this author) weaves new life into the Cinderella story. Both major characters face wrenching conflict between what they've always thought they wanted and the desire they feel for one another. The mistaken identity is well motivated and integrated into the story in a way that adds to, rather than detracts from, the dramatic tension.
One of Christenberry's skills is development of secondary characters. A Cowboy at Heart introduces the Dansky and Petrocelli, the princess's aides and the men who try to protect Liz from herself while still maintaining their loyalty to the real princess and their country. In addition to comic relief, the real concerns of these two, and their genuine feelings for Liz, add a poignant note to the story. I hope that we see more of these two in the future-perhaps when the real princess meats the man who can tame her.
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