Harlequin Special Edition, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
In Comanche Wells, Texas, three weeks have passed since seventeen year old Michelle Godfrey buried her father Alan next to her mother while his second wife Roberta raged at the unnecessary cost. Irate Roberta dumped all of her late husband’s personal items in a landfill while her stepdaughter was at school and kept Michelle from attending church. Roberta tries to sell her late spouse’s stamp collection, but Michelle intervenes and the ethical collector refuses to complete the purchase. After slapping Michelle, Roberta still plans to place the house on sale though the market is tanked.
Michelle meets her kind but troubled neighbor veteran Gabriel Brandon who tells her to stay calm and consider becoming an emancipated minor but definitely not accept abuse. When someone kills Roberta, the police suspect Michelle who had plenty of motives to murder her odious stepmother. Gabriel looks after Michelle as if she was his sibling Sara though his feelings for the teen are unsisterly. Vowing patience until his beloved is old enough to decide what and who she wants, Michelle threatens Gabriel’s control as she may be seventeen but acts thirty.
Once the villainess dies, this Long, Tall Texans contemporary (see Desperado) is a pleasant sweet romance. The teen is forced to be an old soul by family circumstances and the hero is willing to do whatever she needs to allow her to grow up before making his case. Although Roberta is a caricature of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, this is a fine entry.