Finding Mr. Right

Gold Dust

Jezebel's Sister

Windfall

 
Diamond in the Ruff
by Emily Carmichael
(Bantam, $5.50, G) ISBN 0-553-58283-6
***
Written with lots of bouncy charm, Diamond in the Ruff is as light and fluffy as, well, a Welsh corgi. Unfortunately, this puppy also tends to take a snooze just as you’re gearing up for a good romp.

It’s the second adventure of former self-absorbed party girl Lydia Keane, ignominiously reincarnated, for her sins, as a match making Welsh corgi named Piggy. Her new assignment is to pair up happily unmarried wedding consultant Josephine DeMato, and put a stop to the all-wrong nuptials of Joey’s old friend, Alicia Somers.

Joey and Alicia, who’ve been out of touch since college, run into each other in a pet supply store where Joey is buying necessities for the two corgis she’s dogsitting. Wealthy Alicia is marrying the poor but honest police detective who saved her from a homicidal stalker. It just so happens she could use a good wedding consultant. Her wedding is just a month away, at a small (by Colorado standards) ski resort. Her father is paying to close the place for a week so the wedding party can have it all to themselves.

Ben Ramsay is marrying Alicia even though he has concerns about the discrepancies in their net worth. His nine-year-old daughter Tess needs a mom and he needs a wife - and Alicia asked him. He thinks she’s “generous, gutsy, smart and has a good heart.” She’s also more than a little spoiled and just can’t understand why Ben won’t give up that grungy old police job to take a permanent vacation with her and her money.

Lydia/Piggy spots the opportunity right away. Get everybody together at the ski resort, split up Alicia and Ben, hook up Ben and Joey, and voilà - mission accomplished.

In addition to sheer energy, there are lots of things to like about this book. Ben is a gruff sweetheart of a guy with a great sense of humor who adores his daughter. He is waiting until after they’re married to sleep with Alicia because his daughter is coming up on a dangerous age and he feels like he should set a good example. (This also kept Ben out of bed with his fiancée while he was falling for Joey - a neat solution to a highly unromantic situation.)

Although I wasn’t sure about Joey in the beginning, her tough, wisecracking exterior grew on me as I found it hid a soft center. Alicia, too, is adroitly written. She’s not deep but she’s sympathetic, and she’s not-quite-good-enough for our hero without being a witch. My allegiance switched right on schedule.

I also liked the fact that Ben and Joey acknowledge the powerful attraction between them, and then agree to walk away from it because, while it’s tempting, it isn’t right. It also makes a good contrast with the secondary romance, in which the characters do not behave with as much integrity.

Unfortunately, this honorable decision by Ben and Joey also creates a major difficulty that the author couldn’t find a way around. The central romance stalls and we simply mark time with ski trips, skating, drinking, dancing, a bachelor party, a bachelorette party, and a subplot that involves apparent threats against the bride’s life. With the occasional exception of the subplot, most of this activity is empty calories. It can be entertaining, but it doesn’t contribute any real energy or substance to the story. It just fills the space until we get to the point where a major event can kick the story into gear again.

I had much the same problem with Lydia/Piggy’s asides. The corgi commentaries took up a fair amount of space, but they all tended to cover the same ground: how gorgeous and cool she was as a woman, her irritation with life as a canine, how smart she is compared to everyone else, this lame assignment, etc. etc. Listening to this constant whining and snapping got a little tedious. It would have been much more compelling if Lydia/Piggy had grown a little as a person. Or dog.

Entertaining as it was, a bit more muscle under the fluff would have made it a much stronger story.

--Judi McKee


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