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The Rascal    by Lisa Plumley order for
by Lisa Plumley
Order:  USA  Can
Harlequin, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

To the townspeople of Morrow Creek Arizona, saloonkeeper Jack Murphy is the typical western man: handsome, brawny and monosyllabic. He is also something of a ladies man. But no one has any idea how enamored females were of the smooth talking Irishman back east, where Jack's talents for invention garnered him quite the reputation. Women in and around Boston enthusiastically embraced his modern designs for female unmentionables. However, the university where Jack lectured was not as charitable or forgiving about the ensuing scandal and he was forced to resign. Realizing that his 'accidental foray into ladies' unmentionables had turned out disastrously' Jack left behind everything he held dear, including his interfering sisters, and headed west, happy to discover that out here nobody asks a lot of questions or works hard to instill their opinions in others. Nobody, that is, except suffragist Grace Crabtree.

Grace has never felt the need to please a man; her work at her father's paper, as well as the many causes she supports, are fulfilling enough as the attendance at the many meetings and rallies she organizes will attest. The only fly in the ointment is saloonkeeper Jack Murphy, a man who's continually getting in her way and whose very presence is more distracting than wants to admit. But she quickly learns that Jack's recent attentiveness has nothing to do with his decision to be more cordial and everything to do with his scheme to find her a suitable husband who'll keep her under control and away from his saloon, now that he has expansion in mind. Grace is naturally furious when she learns of his plan, but rather than venting her displeasure, she decides to turn the tables on the scheming saloonkeeper since men are, after all, terribly predictable. As she politely, but firmly rebuffs each man who proposes to her, she sets in motion her own campaign to civilize the saloon keeper with actions, words and proper etiquette. It doesn't take long for Jack to realize that no man is worthy enough for his Grace, and for Grace to understand that lurking under that seemingly unrefined exterior is a man much more civilized than she had imagined.

The versatile Lisa Plumley easily shifts gears from contemporary to historical romance, offering readers the third Morrow Creek Matchmakers installment. She's saved the best for the last in this sweet charmer where rabble rousing Grace and saloonkeeper Jack finally get their moment in the sun. The stubborn pair have been at loggerheads since the beginning of this series, with Grace staging all manner of protests outside Jack's saloon and Jack continually antagonizing Grace, generally with humorous results. Plumley weaves her usual magic with their characterizations as well as those of a host of interesting secondary players - which of course include return appearances by the rest of the Crabtree family as well as Jack's confidants and Men's Club regulars, the now very married blacksmith Daniel McCabe and lumberman Marcus Copeland. The old west setting comes to vivid life in Plumley's skilled hands, making The Rascal another lively, humorous and thoroughly enjoyable historical romance.

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