Desert Isle Keeper
Billy Bob Walker Got Married
Many romance readers have never even heard of Lisa G. Brown, whose books are sometimes hard to find. But take it from me, they more than re-pay the effort of tracking them down. Billy Bob Walker Got Married is my favorite by her, but is followed very closely by Crazy For Lovin’ You. Brown also apparently wrote at least one book, High Stakes, under the name Dana Warren Smith.
In Billy Bob Walker Got Married, Shiloh Pennington is the twenty-two-year-old pampered daughter of the richest man in Sweetwater, Mississippi. Shiloh is very close to her father, and tries to be everything he wants her to be. Back from college and working in one of her father’s banks, she is engaged to Michael, Judge Sewell’s son, and poised for just the kind of socially prominent life her father always wanted her to have.
Unfortunately, Shiloh is miserable, because she detests Michael Sewell. He drinks too much and he’s not a very nice person. When she tries to break off the engagement, he almost rapes her in a fit of rage. Her father is not very sympathetic, playing the incident down as Michael’s simply trying to “anticipate his wedding vows.” Both families continue to relentlessly pressure Shiloh to reconcile with Michael.
Meanwhile, Billy Bob Walker is in jail. With no money to pay a fine for fighting, he’s been sentenced to 30 days by Judge Sewell, the father who never claimed him. Shiloh is brought in one night and held in a neighboring cell after attempting to outrun the state police when they tried to stop her for speeding. Not usually one to flout the rules, she’d been pushed to her emotional limits by yet one more scene with the Sewells and her father. Billy Bob and Shiloh met four years earlier; theirs was a short-lived by very sweet romantic interlude which ended when her father found them out. Shiloh now presents Billy with a proposition: she’ll pay his fine in exchange for a marriage, in name only. The marriage need never be revealed to anyone save her father and the Sewells if they continue to push her toward a marriage with Michael. After things settle down, they can secure an equally quiet divorce.
Granted, this sounds a bit contrived in a contemporary romance, but it works well in the hands of this very talented author. This is not a marriage made in heaven.
Between Shiloh’s emotional turmoil, Billy Bob’s bruised pride over the money, and their shared history, it’s a tense drive to the courthouse in Memphis. Neither want anything more than to get through this horrific ordeal and resume their separate lives. But when Billy Bob goes to place a symbolic kiss on Shiloh’s cheek at the end of the wedding ceremony, she inexplicably puts her lips in his path, and the chemistry that had been between them from the beginning awakens from its dormancy:
“He remembered her. The scent of her skin. The feel of her face against his. The taste of her mouth. He thought he’d remembered, but he hadn’t. His memories held only a fraction of the reality. This was Shiloh. This pounding in his veins. This taste of sweetness. This weight against him.”
Though Shiloh wants to carry on as if nothing has changed, Billy realizes that something special still exists between them. He’s not ready to give up without seeing where it might lead. What follows is a lovely, if rocky, story of romance at its best; lovely, because these two people truly love each other on some fundamental level that makes their stereotyped assumptions about each other irrelevant. Rocky, because Billy is as distrustful of Shiloh’s ability to set aside her fears and publicly claim him as she is leery of his “bad boy” reputation when it comes to women.
Billy Bob and Shiloh are eminently likable, and they grow in very realistic ways as the story evolves. Billy Bob is a to-die-for hero, vulnerable beneath his seductive charm, fearful the world will disdain his attempts to become something more than they think him to be. Shiloh makes a worthy heroine, pulled by her different loyalties but displaying a mature wisdom most of the time. Shiloh’s father is not a cardboard villain, but one whose motives and underlying fears become clear; the resolution between he and Shiloh is believable and very poignant.
Billy Bob Walker Got Married is a memorable story, with many tender passages you will love to reread, and definitely a book which will accompany me to that famous desert isle.
Note: For those who pay attention to such things, Billy Bob looks nothing like the hero portrayed on this book’s cover (who looks like a teenager to me).