Catching Kelly

Chasing Rainbow

Letting Loose

As Rachel Lee:

After I Dream

Before I Sleep

Caught

A Conard County Reckoning

Cowboy Comes Home

A Fateful Choice

Involuntary Daddy

Mistletoe Kisses

Nighthawk

Snow in September

 
Tempting Mr. Wright
by Sue Civil-Brown
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-81179-0
****
While I am a great fan of Sue Civil-Brown’s alter ego’s books, I have found her contemporary comic romances a mixed bag - which just goes to show how difficult it is to write humor and how idiosyncratic our comedic tastes are. I can say that this book hits the mark for me. I enjoyed it very much. Tempting Mr. Wright is a clever and entertaining book.

I admit to some initial concern. How could a humorous book center on the possibility that the hero and heroine’s parents are missing and might be in danger? But have no fear. There is more to the disappearance of Steve and Brigitte Wright than meets the eye.

Tess Morrow, an auditor for the IRS in Chicago, receives a most disturbing message from her mother Brigitte while she is away on business. Brigitte informs her that she and her husband are “trying to get a flight home.” Home from where? Tess didn’t know they were going anywhere. When she can’t raise Brigitte and Steve on the phone, she packs up and heads for Paradise, Florida.

Upon arriving, she discovers that her step-brother, Jack Wright, has also been notified that “the parental units” are missing. Tess almost turns around and leaves. For fifteen years, ever since Brigitte married Steve, Tess and Jack had been sniping at each other. Now, at thirty and thirty-six, the two had fallen into a habit of quarreling continually. Indeed, so great is the tension between the two that Tess had not come home for holidays for years.

Now the two have to work together to try to discover what has happened to Steve and Brigitte. And pretty soon, it becomes clear that there is something fishy about the whole business. Indeed, it appears that half the population of Paradise is in on the plot to force Tess and Jack to get over their juvenile squabbles.

Civil-Brown takes full advantage of some home truths about human behavior. First, we do fall into patterns of behavior, patterns that may no longer make sense but which are very hard to get past. Second, sometimes hostility masks other feelings, feelings that seem inappropriate or dangerous. Such is the case with Tess and Jack. The two, unrelated by blood and having spent little time together, can use their ongoing conflict to avoid admitting how they really feel about each other.

The sniping is quite funny most of the time, although it can also be wounding as Tess keeps chiding Jack for his seemingly feckless lifestyle. She is a little slow in figuring out what he really does. Likewise humorous are the attempts of the denizens of Paradise to pull the wool over Tess’ and Jack’s eyes. At first, I feared that the author was making fun of older people. Then, I realized that they were in on the plot and were brilliantly conning the two.

Just to add interest and excitement, Tess and Jack find themselves facing a late season hurricane with an ill-assorted group of house guests. But what really makes the story is the gradual unwinding of the convoluted plot developed by the irrepressible Brigitte to bring the hostilities to their happy ending.

Civil-Brown has found the perfect balance of humor and poignancy, the latter coming to the fore as both Tess and Jack come to terms with the past hurts that have followed them into adulthood. Thus, they can help each other heal.

Tempting Mr. Wright blends humor with romance. It has attractive characters, lots of fun exchanges, and a delightful if improbable plot. This Civil-Brown book is a winner.

--Jean Mason


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