Review of SUDDENLY TEXAN by Victoria Chancellor
Harlequin American Romance #1355, May 2011
Amanda Allen has dreaded this trip to Texas all her life. Still, her brothers are going to find out that she exists one way or the other, and it's only fair that she be the one who tells them. She doesn't expect to be welcomed with open arms, of course, but a girl can wish, can't she? One thing Amanda doesn't need right now, though, is romantic complications. If she were to fall, say, for the sexy hardward store owner with a mysterious past of his own, leaving Brody's Crossing, Texas would be even harder on her than it will be when she finally breaks down and tells her brothers who she is--and they reject her.
Burned by a woman in his former life as a high-stakes professional gambler, Leo Casale runs the local hardware store and is an investor in a condominium conversion. Brody's Crossing is a great place to go when you have to go somewhere, but it does have one small problem for Leo--all the women are either married or people he thinks of as sisters. So, when a pretty stranger comes into town, Leo is intrigued. And when he learns that she's fixated on one of the most married men in town, Leo decides this is a mystery he needs to solve. After all, he wouldn't want his friend Cal to fall for some sort of confidence scam. Still, in his gut, he doesn't think Amanda is playing games. That doesn't mean, though, that he doesn't want to learn her secrets. If she won't tell him, well, guessing is half the fun.
Author Victoria Chancellor (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Chancellor) returns to her Brody's Crossing setting with an intriguing story of two damaged characters. Leo was betrayed by a woman and imagines that he remains a foot-loose wanderer. Amanda really is foot-loose with all of her belongings in her car, her only income what she earns selling garage sale treasures in online auctions, and a habit of sleeping in the car with her stuff if she can't find a cheap enough motel. Perhaps its their similarities that initially make Leo reach out to her, try to help her. What he doesn't realize is that he's trying to give her what he most needs himself--a stable place to call home.
It's difficult to imagine what it would be like to be raised by a bipolar mother and never knowing your father or two brothers. Certainly it would make a person sensitive and Chancellor does a nice job balancing Amanda's sensitivities with the need to make her sympathetic to the reader. As for Leo, his years as a professional gambler left him a master of reading people--which is great if you're trying to decide whether your opponent really drew his inside straight, but not always perfect when dealing with romance. Chancellor also does a great job showing the best of small-town Texas with its friendly people who are quick to pull together to help one another--and even reach out to a stranger.
SUDDENLY TEXAN is a smoothly written and enjoyable read.
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