Rachel Constantine is out to get even with Matthew Rafferty, the young man she believes broke her sister's heart. She intends to drug him, lure him to the church, and when he passes out, take his pants, leaving him in an embarrassing position come Sunday morning. Unfortunately, Rachel is as blind as bat without her glasses, and all the Rafferty brothers look alike. She accidentally tries to seduce the wrong one, and after a bonk on the head, finds herself waking up next to the scoundrel, surrounded by churchgoers. Rachel comes clean about her entire sordid plan, but her sheriff daddy insists that she has still been compromised and the only way to rectify the situation is for the pair to get married. Clint Rafferty doesn't seem particularly perturbed about the idea of marrying her, but Rachel never imagined that her act of revenge could get this far out of hand. How can two virtual strangers find forever love when Clint only seems to want a housekeeper to take care of his brothers, and Rachel is hiding her poor eyesight, making it nearly impossible for her to live up to his expectations?
Fancy Free was a cute story, but nothing particularly unique to a long-time fan of Catherine Anderson like I am. It features her usual small, historical western town in Oregon as the setting, and one of her typical, mostly alpha cowboy/rancher heroes who happens to have a big family of brothers. In fact, parts of the story reminded me of Keegan's Lady, although since it was written after Fancy Free, it looks as though the author may have borrowed a few things from this story while writing Keegan's Lady. She also seems to be partial to certain names, as the heroine of Fancy Free shares the same one, Rachel, with the heroine of Summer Breeze. The one different thing about this Rachel though is that she is not nearly as tormented as most Catherine Anderson heroines. She does have low self-esteem due to her poor eyesight that requires her to wear Coke bottle spectacles in order to see well. This, in turn, makes her feel ugly, so that she avoids wearing them except when absolutely necessary. When her glasses break and she is too embarrassed to admit she is as blind as a bat without them, it does lead to some household catastrophes that were good for a few laughs. As with most of Ms. Anderson's heroes, Clint is pretty patient with Rachel's foibles and her virginal skittishness, and eventually is able to make her feel beautiful in spite of the unattractive glasses.
The story moved along fairly quickly, and even though it was spread out over a two month time period, I just didn't quite feel the blossoming love between Clint and Rachel the way I would have liked. They also had what was in my opinion a silly misunderstanding which could have been solved with a simple conversation, but of course they both acted stubbornly, causing them to be separated for a month. I guess I can mostly forgive it though, because it led to a sweet HEA. I also found myself with several questions throughout the story, but surprisingly, all but one about how a respectable young lady like Rachel happened to be friends with a saloon girl, were answered to my satisfaction. The sexual tension in this novella was somewhat high, but there were no detailed love scenes, which should make it appropriate for most romance readers. Fancy Free did have a few weaknesses, and for the most part, it followed the typical Catherine Anderson formula. It may not have been one of her absolute best stories, but overall, it was a fairly entertaining read that held my attention, and the lack of any truly tortured characters made it an unusually light and pleasant story by this author. Fancy Free was originally published in the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss, and was later reprinted in the anthology Three Times a Bride.
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