A Man to Call My Own
Johanna Lindsey’s newest, and her first for Simon & Schuster after a very lengthy association with Avon, is a witty western romance that made me smile as I turned the pages. The heroine is likable, and the pretending-to-be-plain premise fun, which makes up for a plot that isn’t particularly realistic. But after all these years, I think most Lindsey readers know what they’re going to get with a Lindsey release, and she mostly delivers the goods.
After the death of their father, Marion and Amanda Laton are sent from their New England home to live with their aunt Red, who owns a small ranch in the wilds of Texas. Hiding out at the ranch is Chad Kinkaid, the only son of one of the largest land owners in Texas. Chad’s father has arranged an advantageous marriage but Chad wants nothing of it. When the letter arrives informing Red that her nieces are coming, she sends Chad to pick them up and bring them to their new home.
Chad is immediately attracted to Amanda, who is beautiful, delicate, and curvy. She’s everything her sister Marion is not. Marion wears dowdy brown dresses, thick glasses, and is rather clumsy. What nobody knows is that Marion has made herself look like this for a reason. She’s sick of fighting with her jealous sister Amanda over men. If, by pretending to be ugly, her sister will “win” and get married first, the endless arguing will stop. While this is not exactly a new premise, it seems to work more often than not.
This strategy seems to be working well, until Marion meets Chad. She likes him too much and goes out of her way to hide this from him and Amanda. As for Chad, he quickly realizes that Amanda’s beauty is only on the surface. On the other hand, Marion is witty, intelligent, and brave. In fact, she has all the qualities he’s looking for in a wife. The story gets complicated, though, after Marion and Chad kiss, and a case of mistaken identity might result in a marriage involving the wrong sister.
Marion’s dislike of her petty and spiteful sister is obvious from the start, and she certainly has good reason for those negative feelings. By the end of the book, though, their relationship changes drastically. While Amanda works at being a better person, her transformation was not extensive enough to warrant her sister’s forgiveness. With so much of the story built on their rivalry, in the end is sort of fizzles. Another problem was Chad’s inability to know which twin was which. After making love to a woman, you’d think he could tell the difference between her and her sister, but then, twin romances with one good and one “evil” sibling practically require this type of mistaken identity.
Contrivances aside, A Man to Call My Own still manages to entertain. Lindsey’s been doing this long enough to know what works and what doesn’t, and for the most part, this one works. By the time Marion got a man to call her own, I was glad.