The Bride-in-Law

Cinderella's Midnight Kiss

A Knight in Rusty Armor

More to Love

The Passionate G-Man

Rocky and the Senator’s Daughter

The Virgin & the
Vengeful Groom

Beckett’s Cinderella by Dixie Browning
(Silh. Desire #1453, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76453-7
Beckett’s Cinderella earns its three-heart rating on the quality of Dixie Browning’s writing. And it is quality, at least technically, plus the hero is quite delectable. However, the heroine’s smarts leave much to be desired, and the conflict feels forced.

Lancelot J. Beckett is a marine security specialist who installs tracking devices on large freighters in order to thwart pirates. He’s back in the States, though, and his mission has nothing to do with ships. Instead, he’s fulfilling a commitment made by his grandfather, Paw Paw. Several generations back, a Beckett swindled a Chandler out of a business partnership and a sum of money. It’s time to make amends, and Beckett needs to track down one Eliza Chandler, descendant of that long-ago victim. His search takes him to rural North Carolina, where he finds Eliza living with her elderly great-uncle and running his roadside produce stand. All he has to do is hand over the money and get a receipt.

But it’s not that easy. Eliza is a widow whose con man husband was shot to death during a scam, and although cleared of any involvement, she hasn’t yet come to terms with the shame and guilt she feels over his misdeeds. Now here’s a handsome man offering her money, and Eliza can’t help but think this is another con. So she decides she just won’t accept it and won’t listen to anything he has to say. Period.

This is fine for Eliza, and frustrating for Beckett, but mostly it’s flat out boring for the reader, as Beckett goes back time and again to try and get Eliza to hear him out. He gets three sentences into it and she’s handing him back his papers and ordering him to leave. Again and again. When he finally does manage to get the story out, she decides he’s lying.

Meanwhile, they are casting glances each other’s way. Beckett was left at the altar as a young man and has never found a woman he wants to settle down with. Eliza is gun-shy from her disastrous marriage. But their budding attraction is buried under the forced conflict. The only thing that keeps this story going is Eliza refusing to listen, and after the third time, she pretty much crossed the line into “insufferable.”

As for Beckett, he certainly deserved better. Nearly forty, with silvery hair, he’s a bit unusual in that he’s older than most romance heroes and his emotional conflict isn’t really all that conflicted - he just hasn’t met anyone who made his head spin. I can buy that, plus he’s a good guy trying to do right for his beloved grandfather. What I couldn’t buy was his attraction to Eliza for anything other than her looks. Sure, he tries to portray her in his mind as the “proud, strong woman” type, but she mostly came across as borderline rude and a bit of a dimwit with her determination not to listen. I half expected her to plug her ears and start humming to drown out Beckett’s voice.

There is a subplot about Eliza receiving unsettling phone calls and letters, but it’s a filler plot to allow Beckett the chance to get close to her. Heaven knows it won’t happen any other way.

Beckett’s Cinderella is the first in a new series, and Beckett’s cousin Carson is likely the next up at bat. Since he’s laid up in a cast, complaining about his gorgeous drill sergeant of a physical therapist, I think we can guess where it will go. Dixie Browning’s formidable talents make it a series worth watching; I just hope Carson gets a more sympathetic heroine for his story.

--Cathy Sova

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