The Bride Thief

Red Roses Mean Love

Whirlwind Wedding

Whirlwind Affair by Jacquie D’Alessandro
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-24713-0
Jacquie D’Alessandro’s undeniable talent shines through most of Whirlwind Wedding, the story of a woman betrayed by her late husband and unwilling to move on, at least emotionally. Unfortunately, the heroine’s attitude towards men overshadows the romance, and since it’s an attitude that’s both creaky and unfounded, it’s somewhat difficult to get past.

Lovely young widow Alberta “Allie” Brown arrives in London, where she is going to visit her dear friend Elizabeth, who is now a duchess. First, Allie must return a ring to a man she’s never met. This ring is the last detail of a mission Allie set for herself when her husband died: to return all of the stolen and extorted goods and money he accumulated during their marriage. Allie’s disillusionment over her husband’s behavior has colored her view of men. She’ll never trust one again, because they can all so easily be connivers and liars.

Lord Robert Jamieson, younger brother of the duke, meets Allie at the dock. Robert has a charcoal sketch of Allie, and he’s surprised to find not the vibrant beauty of the picture but a solemn young woman in widow’s weeds, though her husband has been dead for three years. When Allie tries to whisper in his ear, Robert mistakenly assumes she means to kiss him and turns his head. The kiss they share shakes them both and sets their romance in motion.

Robert takes Allie to the duke’s townhouse, and when she explains she has some business in London before they depart for the Duke’s estate, he isn’t fazed. They share a quiet evening together and the attraction starts to simmer. Then Allie is abducted during a midnight walk in the garden. Robert catches a glimpse, follows, and they end up bound in a riverfront warehouse, from which they escape. It’s obvious to everyone but Allie that someone means her harm, but who?

Robert is one of the more unusual - and refreshing - heroes in recent memory. Having seen the happy marriages of his friends and family, he is determined to find a woman to love, and nobody is more surprised, or delighted, than Robert at the instant spark between he and Allie. He’s also smart and resourceful, just the kind of man you’d want coming to your rescue. His genuine friendship with an Irish boxing teacher gives us a glimpse into his character. This is a man who looks beneath the surface, and it allows him to see past Allie’s mourning clothes and defenses.

Allie doesn’t fare so well, and she’s the weak point in this story. For starters, she’s clueless for far too long about the fact that someone actually means to harm her. When she arrives in London, she’s already been pushed overboard from the ship. Then she’s abducted. Then the townhouse is ransacked - twice. She finally gets the message, but it takes way too long. And while her determination to clear her husband’s wrongs is admirable, her view of Robert is nothing more than plot device. He’s kind handsome, has rescued her more than once, has treated her with nothing but respect, and he’s her best friend’s brother-in-law. Yet even after Allie falls in love with him, she only agrees to become his lover, not his wife - because he might turn out to be another David. Does this make any sense?

The last half of the story shifts to the duke’s estate, and the story drags a bit. Robert is intent on convincing Allie to marry him, and their affair heats up. The sexual attraction between them is plenty hot. But a major plot contrivance is used to solve the mystery of the ring, and it fell rather flat.

Jacquie D’Alessandro’s sparkling dialogue is always a standout, and readers will find plenty of it here. Robert is wonderful, and Allie just misses the mark. Whirlwind Affair falls into the category of “perfectly acceptable”; it’s only because the author has shown such talent in the past that it’s a slight disappointment.

--Cathy Sova

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