Heart of Texas by Mary Lynn Baxter was first posted at The Romance Reader in 1999. Back then I rated it 3-Hearts (C grade) with a MPAA sensuality content rating of PG-13.
Clark Garrison is on a mission. He has been sent by his boss to purchase Quiet Haven nursing home in his hometown of River Oaks, Texas. The only obstacle is Sara Ann Wilson, chiropractor and part owner of Quiet Haven. Five years her junior, Clark knew Sara from the days when he was a high school football player and the town’s resident bad boy. Sara and her mother were not pleased that back in those days Clark was dating Sara’s younger sister, Alice. So, to persuade Sara to sell, he has try and convince her he’s a changed man.
Sara is 39, single, and a workaholic. She loves her practice, and her work at the nursing home. She gave up a lucrative practice in Dallas to return to River Oaks and take care of her mother. She’s happy and fulfilled with her job, but her personal life is none existent.
Clark and Sara meet up at her house after he throws out his back. Sexual tension is crackling in the air, and Clark (of course) does not reveal the real reason he’s returned to River Oaks. This makes up the story’s central conflict, although Sara’s insecurities also play a major role.
Heart of Texas has some interesting ideas, the story is too formulaic to make a real impact. The older woman -- younger man (even if it is only 5 years) was a nice change of pace. What I found disagreeable was Sara’s lack of experience with personal relationships. She’s 39 and a doctor. I find it unlikely that someone with her life experiences (college, living in Dallas) would be that naïve. Instead, Clark calls the shots through most of book, and Sara just coasts along having doubts.
The sexual tension between Clark and Sara is also well done. Baxter doesn’t mince words, and it’s apparent from the second chapter these two have it bad for each other. The progression of their attraction moves along nicely, and I never came across a chapter that was “dead weight.”
However, there are no new ideas here, and anyone who’s read at least five romances will know exactly where the story is going before they even get there. Some good ideas, wasted in predictability.
Note: This book was published in October 1999 and I started reviewing for TRR in August 1999 - not terribly long after I rediscovered the genre. So in less than one year of devouring romance novels I thought this was predictable - which is saying something.
I'm almost tempted to reread this, but dang - that paragraph about Sara's "inexperience" has me thinking I probably shouldn't. What I do recall? I think the "leanness" of this book and other Desires I read in that era quickly led it to becoming my favorite category line at that time. Even back then I had little patience for "dead weight" and "filler."
(Heh - if that cover model is 34-years-old I'm 25.)