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The Angry Man Joyce DingwellThe Angry Man by Joyce Dingwell (1979) Harlequin Romance #2318 The Angry Man. How could I not?

First, a detour to cover art. I am working with an artist on the cover of book two of the RiverLust series, Simon’s Story. It’s called Swan Bay. I don’t believe you can paint a handsome man on the cover of a romance novel. Beautiful heroines? Yes. But the heroes always come off wrong.

Point in fact: The Angry Man cover hero is bleak. Crocodile Dundee with a longer face and shadowed, sunken cheeks. His hair is some kind of a poofy gray 70s mullet. Go ahead. Take a look at the cover of The Angry Man. Does he look angry to you? See that slight lift of his upper lip, over there on the right? The way his brows are furrowed together as he regards the heroine? Yes. The lovely doe-eyed one.

He is not angry; he’s sardonic, bemused. The man on this cover looks more perturbed than angry. Which is the perfect summation of Joyce Dingwell’s hero in this book.

English Polly loved her neighbor, who loved her sister, so her uncle sent her away. To Australia. Where after working on a statistics team as the resident non-statisician, she is told she has to stay another six months, because her former lover’s courtship of her sister is going more slowly than anticipated. So she takes the position of paid companion to Mrs. Clemance, young and beautiful wife of Thorn Clemance. Thorn is an ag specialist for a pharmaceutical company. A medical herbalist. But the beautiful Mrs. Clemance is not his wife. It’s his cousin’s widow. The hero is, in fact, not married. We learn this as the heroine does, and it’s a breathless beat.

Look at me, MissKendall, look at me, tell me what you see.’ ‘I-I don’t understand you.’ Polly tried to retreat a step, but he advanced, and at once they stood barely an inch apart. I think you do understand. I think you see a man who is a no-half-measures man. I think you see a man who would not be put off with subtleties, evasions and half-truths from any woman he made his wife. I think you see a man who would demand an entirety, a fulfillment, a conclusion, a completion.’ A pause. ‘I think you see a man who would be demanding four, not eight walls.”

Oh, dear. Here’s looking at you.

The ultimate logic of conflict? Unknown.

There is an ancestral puzzle requiring a flow chart to comprehend. And, for some reason, Thorn couldn’t tell Polly about his cousin’s widow’s recent sanitarium visit, her convalescence in his home, or the will that required that before she inherit, she must remain unmarried for two years. Which would have explained Polly’s charge to keep the young woman away from men.

The hero is in fact exactly like his picture (and the reader). Confused and frustrated. Not an awful book. Joyce Dingwell (b. 1908) wrote 80 of them. She knew how to write.

But for this one, in the end, I am left with only a single, bright nugget: Upon first introduction, her toes were dipped in the river until he found her and hauled her out. A shark had taken the hero’s dog from that very rock, only a week earlier.

There is no cure for a shark attack…When you put your gear on we’ll get back.’ ‘Gear? I’ve only removed my shoes and my pantyhose!’ He shrugged, saying almost uninterestingly: ‘Put ‘em on.’ Incensed, feeling a fool, hoping at least he would look away as she did so, Polly complied. It was not easy to wriggle discreetly into pantyhose, and she wished he would wander off. A tactful man would have. But he didn’t, he stood there right to the final hitch.

The final hitch? This whole line of books is worth reading for the settings. These girls get to go everywhere.