Prior Engagement
by Karina Bliss
(Harl. Super #1849, $5.75, PG) ISBN 978-0373-71849-8
***
This is another of the New Zealand stories that features a member of the Special Forces. It reminds us that other countries have sent soldiers to Iraq, not just the USA. I really wanted to like this tale more, but the story felt forced at times and the hero was a difficult guy to like. In the end, however, the romance is one that did satisfy.

Lee Davis died two years ago in a roadside attack that injured two of his buddies. They found his DNA on a piece of his finger, which appeared to be all that was left of him. But in reality, Lee was a POW, one that was missing his finger tip thanks to a Taliban guard. Despite adversity, Lee survivedand is now on his way home. He will have to learn that his father has died, but his friends are ecstatic and his fiancee is nervous.

Jules Brown accepted the engagement ring his friends found in Lee's effects and she has built a relationship with his family and his friends, one of whom married her best friend. She did it knowing that two weeks before he shipped out she and Lee had an argument when Lee proposed and she turned him down, saying she wasn't ready and needed time. They had only known each other six weeks. Lee was sure and resented that Jules couldn't commit. They parted on shaky ground. But Jules has mourned Lee and of course, once he was gone she realized that she did love him enough. But it was too late.

The story follows their reunion and their re-engagement which occur due to some misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Lee remembers and is amazed that she fooled all their friends. Jules thinks Lee has amnesia and has been warned not to upset him too much at first, so she goes along when he proposes in front of the press and all of their friends. Needless to say, this is the start to a very shaky relationship.

Lee is often surly and angry, which is to be expected due to the circumstances. But he is also downright rude to Jules and she just takes it. The glimpses of their true personalities were refreshing and the only thing that kept this reader engaged in their romance. Their friends are super and apparently have each had their own stories. Not having read them did not detract from this tale. They were a big part of enjoying the storyline.

A Prior Engagement gets better as the ending nears and Lee does redeem himself by the end. If the reader can see past their barriers and somewhat nasty behavior to each other, the author finally delivers on the romance.

--Shirley Lyons


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