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Society Bride by Elizabeth Bevarly
(Silh. Desire #1196, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76196-1
Let me begin by admitting that I am a "Fortune's Children" junkie. I confess that I am powerless whenever a new installment of this series comes out and have no control over my addiction. Who can explain it? Do I have some kind of fixation on the lives and problems of the rich and powerful? Does Kate Fortune remind me of my mother? Whatever the deeper cause, all I need is to see the words "Fortune's Children" on a book and I buy it.

This is how Elizabeth Bevarly's new Silhouette Desire came into my hands. Was I disappointed? Not really. Although, in my opinion, Society Bride is not one of the strongest entries in the series, it is none the less a pleasant enough story with an uncommon twist. It's not often that one finds a contemporary plot based on a woman who is faced with the necessity to make a marriage she doesn't want to save the family fortune.

Renee Riley is such a heroine. Her father's electronics company is in big trouble. The brash, young corporate raider Lyle Norton is on the verge of gobbling it up. But there's a way to save the company. Lyle has decided that it's time for him to get married and he has decided that Renee would be the perfect wife. Since he doesn't have time to court her himself, he has her father put the bargain before an astounded Renee: marry Lyle and her beloved father's company is safe. Don't marry him, and it's bye-bye Riley Electronics.

Reginald Riley puts the proposition before Renee at her friend Kelly's wedding to Mac Fortune (see The Honor-Bound Groom). Needing some space to digest this unhappy prospect, Renee makes her way to a balcony overlooking a snowy Minneapolis. There she finds the best man to her maid of honor, Garrett Fortune.

Garrett has been badly burned in marriage. His wife turned out to be solely interested in the Fortune fortune. So he has a very sour view of the state of matrimony, which he shares with Renee. He also shares a very potent kiss as the midnight hour strikes and the new year begins.

Fast forward three months. Renee, after much soul searching, has accepted Lyle's deal. Her impending (as in doom) marriage is a week away. Restless, she decides to have a facial and at the spa, she meets Kate Fortune. Kate is aware that all is not well with Renee and suggests that she take a view days at her special getaway retreat, Final Destination Ranch in Wyoming. And guess who is in charge of said ranch. You got it: Garrett Fortune.

Neither has been able to forget that memorable kiss on New Year's Eve. And yet the barriers to exploring the meaning of said kiss are formidable. There is Garrett's distrust of women and his conclusion that Renee is marrying for her own financial benefit. There is Renee's loyalty to her father.

As I said before, a somewhat unusual plot premise for a contemporary romance.

Why do I find Society Bride acceptable rather than wholeheartedly recommending it? Primarily, I guess, because I was not wildly fond of the characters. I found Garrett the all too common "burned once, avoid marriage" hero. I wasn't sure what other than his appearance attracted Renee to him. I liked Renee better, but she too lacked the kind of depth I prefer in my heroines.

Still, I have no doubt that other Fortune's Children addicts will want to read this latest installment in this endless saga. They won't be disappointed but neither will they be overwhelmed.

--Jean Mason

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