With This Wedding Ring

A Mother for Jeffrey

Wedding Bells & Mistletoe
by Trisha Alexander
(Silh. Spec. Ed. 1289, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24289-1
Paul Sheridan is madly in love with Susan Carroll. In fact he can’t stop talking about her when his best friend Keith Callahan decides to visit him in Austin for Spring Break. When Keith meets Susan for himself, he knows he’s in trouble. Then Paul gets sick and insists that Keith and Susan go out to dinner without him; famous last words. Susan and Keith end up in bed together, and Keith is so horrified with himself afterwards he flees the scene offering Susan no explanation.

After Keith leaves her, Susan breaks up with Paul. She can’t return his feelings of love, when in fact she loves Keith, a man who used her for sex. Shortly after she discovers she’s pregnant, and there’s no doubt who is the father. Months later, after she’s starting to show, she runs into Paul. She tells him she had a one night stand, but not with whom. Paul proposes marriage. Susan knows she can’t support the baby on her own, and feels a genuine affection for Paul. She accepts and they marry. Paul moves his family back to his hometown of Rainbow’s End, Texas.

Fast forward ten years and Keith Callahan returns home to Rainbow’s End from Alaska. Months earlier, Keith’s father told him that Paul had died. Crushed and still carrying a mountain of guilt, he decides to return home to pay his last respects. He has never forgotten Susan, and knows she ended up marrying his best friend.

Susan prays she doesn’t run into Keith, and she certainly hopes the truth isn’t revealed. Paul raised her son, Scott, as his own and Susan does not want to tarnish that. Also, she’s very close to her mother-in-law and doesn’t want to add to the woman’s pain when she just lost her only son.

Will Keith and Susan be able to move on? Will she tell Keith he’s a father? Will scandal rock the small town? Will they have a “happily ever after?”

The “child I never knew I had” story has a long and rich history in the romance genre. However, Alexander sold me on a story that could have just been another predictable category romance by writing well-defined characters. Keith and Susan have tons of guilt, as well they should, and they never looked back on their past indiscretion lightly. I felt the conflict right along with them, and understood Susan’s fears, desires and concerns about her feelings for Keith, her son, her husband, and her mother-in-law.

Alexander also adds some wonderful secondary characters in the form of Keith’s rather large family. All are likable characters that are sure to have their own stories in the Callahans and Kin series.

However, there is a loose end left dangling at the end of the book. While I understand why Alexander chose to end the book this way, some readers may be put off by it.

Wedding Bells and Mistletoe is a charming category romance with few surprises. Nothing that breaks new ground, but it will definitely find in audience through strong characters and realistic portrayals.

--Wendy Crutcher

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