Going to the Chapel by Rochelle Alers, Gwynne Forster, Donna Hill & Francis Ray
(St. Martin’s $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-97894-4
St. Martin’s latest anthology has been released to coincide with the summer wedding season. The four stories in the collection tell of love, romance and marriage. In three of the stories, world views collide with interesting results. Love abounds in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.

Rochelle Alers’ “Stand in Bride” is set in Savannah, Georgia, one of my favorite cities. It is the story of wedding planner Katherine Langdon and banker Gerald Barnett. When Gerald’s spoiled daughter Lisa asks her father to pull out all the stops to make sure that her hastily arranged wedding to a Frenchman is worthy of a “Savannah Barnett,” he approaches Katherine. She is a highly sought after consultant whose work with “Langdon Brides” are both legendary and costly.

But money is no object for the banker. Gerald cannot deny anything to his only daughter whose mother abdicated her parental responsibilities and left the family when Lisa was still a baby. The wedding is to take place in 90 days and to engage her services, Gerald makes Katherine the first of several offers she cannot refuse. Alers’ has created another story in her growing repertoire of romances between Baby Boomers I have come to enjoy.

You can almost hear Marvin Gaye croon throughout Donna Hill’s “Distant Lover.” Nina Benson is an executive with a real estate development company sent to Barbados to close a deal on a parcel of land owned by local businessman Vincent St. Michael. Unknown to Nina, Vincent has no intention of selling the land that has been in the St. Michael family for generations. He was stringing along Nina’s arrogant boss and had expected him to come finalize the negotiations at which time he would humiliate him. But Nina’s arrival as a replacement may jeopardize more than Vincent’s birthright.

Gwynne Forster’s “Learning to Love” explores a clash of cultures and egos. Sharon Braxton is an assistant secretary general of the United Nations who is being sent to Nigeria to head an important project. The success of this project is important to the country and to Sharon’s career. She has enlisted the help of Dr. Adejonko Kuti, a professor of economic development at Columbia University. “Jon” Kuti is more than a tenured professor. He is the first born son of a Nigerian chief who has contacts that would smooth the way for the U.N. project. Opposites attract in this cross cultural battle of the sexes.

Texas political fundraiser Charlotte Duvall personifies the phrase, “always a bridesmaid and never a bride.” For the ninth time, Charlotte is standing up in a friend’s wedding. She is beginning to wonder if she will ever meet Mr. Right. Meeting Vincent Maxwell, cousin of the most recent groom, has done nothing to change her mind. Vincent is Mr. All Wrong. Charlotte has him pegged as an arrogant Yankee with annoyingly antiquated notions about women’s roles. Wedding jitters and mini-misunderstandings, the maid of honor and best man are thrown together to ensure that the wedding takes place without a hitch. Francis Ray’s “Southern Comfort” is a delightful story about an uncivil war between the states that reminds us that looks often are deceiving.

Going to the Chapel had its work cut out for it. Following the extremely popular Welcome to Leo’s anthology would not be an easy task. The tone of Going to the Chapel is somewhat different than previous anthologies and the stories play up the author’s strengths. It is an enjoyable collection, but I must issue a warning. It will probably take a few days for readers who remember “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups’ to get the sing-songy lyrics and melody out of their heads . . .

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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