|Catherine Anderson: Bright Eyes|
Signet (Paperback), ISBN 0451212169
The fourth novel in the Coulter family series, Bright Eyes combines traditional love-and-marriage romance with an intriguing murder mystery. The author follows Zeke, second oldest, confirmed bachelor brother in the Coulter clan. As the novel opens, the former rodeo star heads home intending to spend a Saturday night canning tomatoes, which reinforces his "confirmed bachelor" status.
Instead of firm, ripe tomatoes, he encounters Chad, a juvenile vandal who busily smashes Zeke's garden and a few other things. Angrily chasing the fleeing felon to the neighbor's old farmhouse, Zeke spies a luscious black lace clad "tomato" that tosses all thought of strangling teenagers or canning veggies out of his head. He ogles the backside exposed to him as she leans over a table of garage sale merchandise. But when he discovers she's the mother of the juvenile delinquent, his amorous thoughts take a cold shower.
Natalie, the shapely impoverished mother, singer, struggling owner of a heavily-mortgaged nightclub and divorcee of wealthy, philandering Robert: "a virus looking for a host, [for whom] any warm body will do," suspects all men. She refuses charity, but can't afford to pay the tab for her son's destructive adventure. Zeke mellows and suggests that Chad can work off the debt by repairing the damage. Her suspicions and motherly instincts prompt her to join in the reparation work at Zeke's house, allowing the chemistry to bubble and boil and lead to romance. The two strong-willed, slightly mistrusting, mature adults come together with humor and sweetly titillating bedroom scenes.
An unexpected visit from Chad's little sister, Rosie, a precocious and talkative four-year-old, fills in many of the blanks in the family history while she captures Zeke's heart. Recognizing good kids when he sees them, Zeke realizes that Chad acted out the anger he harbors against the birth father who ignores him.
Zeke, "a rare bird who's never been in love," believes in Natalie, encourages her music career and pulls in every favor he can to procure justice when she stands accused of murder. The ready-made family story avoids the evil stepfather stereotype, designating the biological father as the villain. The family finally unites when the "right" father figure steps in to love and protect them properly.
Readers will smile as the crusty bachelor rodeo star falls for the sweet-voiced, hurt-by-love, feisty woman-next-door and will enjoy the happily-ever-after ending. Her extended family -- and his -- add to the chaos and entertainment.
here to share your