Assigment: Groom!

The Cowboy & the Shotgun Bride

Duets 2

Duets 55

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I Do! I Do!

Mistletoe Daddy

The Stolen Bride
by Jacqueline Diamond
(Harl. Intrigue #800, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-22800-7
Traumatic amnesia has taken the memory of the day she was injured from Erin Marshall. Regaining consciousness, she is told by Chet Dever that she had agreed to marry him and, notwithstanding her shaky recovery process, a huge society wedding is planned within a couple months.

Erin, the very wealthy daughter of a real estate conglomerate firm, had been more or less masquerading as a worker for a philanthropic organization in a small town distant from where the Marshall Industries controlled her hometown. The day of the accident Erin had finally decided she could not marry Chet and intended to tell him so. She was run down by a van and saw the person driving before she was hit.

The day of the wedding, Police Officer Joseph Lowery insists upon seeing her prior to the ceremony. Erin and Joseph had been teenage sweethearts but when Josephís father was convicted of robbery and murder, Joseph distanced himself from Erin. Although she is in a hazy state and uncertain about the wedding, and nearly estranged from her mother after her motherís recent remarriage, Erin intends to go through with the ceremony until she talks with Joseph.

Erin calls off the ceremony after bitter words with Chet and flees the church with Joseph. He is convinced she is still not safe. With her mother and stepfather so hostile, he takes her to his home where he is certain he can guard her. Erin gradually begins to regain her old confidence in his presence, and together they try and learn why she was nearly killed and why she has been estranged from her mother.

After her widowed mother had met Lance on a cruise and was rushed into marriage, she sold their home and moved to a lake property with Lance. Some months prior she had nearly drowned in a mysterious boating experience, and Joseph was trying to link that incident with Erinís near death experience when a sniper tries to kill Erin as they are returning to his home from errands in town. Certain now that she is at risk, Joseph expands his circle of suspects and tries to connect what he has always perceived as the framing of his father to this widening and dangerous conspiracy swirling around Erin.

This very intricately conceived plot soon grows in complexity. There are hosts of secondary characters that do keep the pacing varied. Unfortunately the trade off is that the secondary characters are thinly developed and even the principal characters are little more than passing acquaintances to the reader.

Whereas coincidences are fun in real life, in this story they greatly weaken the resolution. There is however, plenty of action in the story and although the characters Erin and Joseph change slightly and find each other again, the conflicts almost eclipse their burgeoning romance.

In these days originality counts for something and this multifaceted plot does keep a reader turning the pages.

--Thea Davis

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