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The Hoodwinked Bride:
A Fortune's Children Wedding

by Barbara Boswell
(Silhouette, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-48378-3
****
OK, I've finally figured it out. I understand the appeal of the Fortune's Children series. It's pure, unadulterated soap opera. I can hear the rest of you saying in derision, "Well, of course, silly. What else did you think it was?" But I haven't watched the soaps regularly since The Edge of Night was on for fifteen minutes every afternoon (in black and white, I might add). So it took me awhile to place the provenance of this particular publishing undertaking.

My epiphany came when I tried to sort out the incredibly convoluted relationships that mark Barbara Boswell's entry into the FC marathon. OK, here we have a romance featuring Kate Fortune's granddaughter, Angelica Carroll. Of course, Angelica doesn't know she is Kate Fortune's granddaughter.

You see, Angelica is the daughter of Brandon Malone Fortune, the twin son of Kate and Benjamin Fortune, who was believed kidnapped as an infant but who was, instead, handed over by his father to the blackmailing Hollywood star Monica Malone and raised as her son. The deception was only discovered at the end of the first go-round of Fortune Children books.

Brandon, of course, didn't know he had a daughter by his first love Romina Carroll, who had fled Los Angeles when her parents, bribed by the evil Monica, tried to force her to get an abortion. He only discovers his belated parenthood when a blackmail note arrives at the Fortune headquarters, threatening to murder Angelica and pin the crime on Brandon. See what I mean? Only in the soaps

And where does the romance come in? Well, the Fortunes hired former FBI agent and current private security expert Flynt Corrigon, first to find the missing daughter and then to investigate the blackmail threat. (And also to smooth the path to Brandon's establishing a relationship with his daughter.)

Flynt's first face-to-face meeting with the lost Fortune is a bit unusual. When he arrives at her mother's house, she pulls a gun on him. Then, as he watches in amazement, two policemen, two FBI agents and one nasty private detective arrive to search the joint. And the Carroll family (which consists of Romina, Angelica and four siblings, all with different fathers) treat this invasion as if it were commonplace. Seems Romina is believed to be a member of an underground organization that hides mothers and children from abusive fathers.

Flynt is perfectly willing to try to get Angelica and her father together although the relationship starts out pretty strained. He is more anxious to pursue his own relationship with Angelica, to which starts out sizzling and only gets hotter. (Although I give Boswell credit. The two don't immediately jump into bed together.)

Indeed, both Flynt and Angelica have good reason to distrust the idea of a "happy ever after." Flynt watched a tragedy tear his family apart; Angelica has watched a series of irresponsible men flit in and out of her mother's life, leaving Romina to bear the burden of raising the results of these relationships.

Flynt, a pretty standard sensitive alpha male, is simply bowled over by the lovely, bright and brave Angelica who has made something of herself (she is a highly respected nurse midwife) despite her unsettled family background. Angelica has to learn that not all men take their pleasure and leave the woman to bear the consequences.

In addition to the main romance, Brandon rediscovers his lost love and actually shows some signs of growing up. (He's only 45! But he did have a difficult childhood.) And there is the mystery of who is sending those threatening letters. And of course there is good old Kate Fortune, making sure that the course of true love runs smoothly.

Boswell does a good job of keeping the pages turning. Indeed, there is hardly a dull moment as one exciting development follows another. If you have been following the fortunes of the Fortunes, you will certainly want to read this book. And coming in March?. . . . Oh, goody, my favorite. A marriage of convenience story. See you next month.

--Jean Mason


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