Castillo's Bride
by Anne Marie Duquette
(Harl. Super. #975, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70975-7
***
For those of you who prefer action/intrigue stories with a dash of romance thrown in, then Castillo's Bride may be just the book for you. Those of you who prefer more romance and less adventure may want to think twice about this story.

Aurora Collins is a woman with a mission. Her sixteen-year-old niece was stupid enough to be caught with marijuana in Mexico. Now she and her parents are in a Mexican jail, with little hope of getting out. Aurora needs plenty of dinero to get her family out of prison. She's got a plan, though. She's located a sunken treasure ship and knows that it'll bring her plenty of money if she can excavate it.

That's where Jordan Castillo comes in. He's looking for the ship, too. It belonged to his ancestors. He's delighted that Aurora has located it off San Diego waters, but isn't at all happy that she wants her cut of the treasure. Even hearing her reasoning doesn't assuage his disappointment, but considering that she knows the sunken ship's location and he doesn't, he's really between the proverbial rock and hard place.

So Jordan and Aurora join forces, only to be met with a third problem. Someone wants to locate the ship first and doesn't mind eliminating the two of them in the process.

It's hard to empathize with a heroine who, at thirty-eight, thrives on her independence and her career to the exclusion of any kind of in-depth, significant relationship. Aurora is described as having had few special men. One wanted her to settle down in the 'burbs and have kids, but she found that idea far from satisfactory. Now the men in her life are buddies and pals. She finds the ocean more fascinating than any human.

Jordan is the exception, the Prince to her Sleeping Beauty persona. But I don't buy it. Someone once told me that it's more likely for a woman over thirty-five to be the victim of a foreign terrorist attack than to find the right man and get married. Aurora is attacked by bad guys, and that scenario is more plausible than imagining her giving up her life on the ocean, a life where she's always captain of her ship.

Another problem I had initially is with Aurora's jailed relatives. We don't see much of her brother-in-law, but her sister and niece are written with a heavy hand. I know teenagers can be snippety lowlifes, but when Aurora visits them in the Mexican jail, here's the welcome she gets from the pot-smoking adolescent. "I'm dirty, my hair's a mess, the food stinks. I need a cigarette and my mother's a nervous wreck . . . Wipe your nose, Mom. You look gross."

Family loyalty is a strong bond, but I as a reader had a hard time caring whether these two ingrates were rescued or not. That dispassionate attitude cut into my enjoyment and interest in the rescue.

The two external plot lines rule the story. The rescue of Aurora's sister, niece and brother-in-law from a Mexican prison is more dominant, while the one involving salvaging the sunken treasure ship has interesting diving and salvage details. However, these two conflicts override the relationship. Aurora and Jordan seem to be colleagues, working toward mutual goals rather than lovers who are in a growing relationship. Much more word count is given to the rescue/salvage attempt than to the relationship.

A three-heart rating for Castillo's Bride is the best I can do. I didn't care for it, but that was simply because I didn't buy into the relationship. If that action/intrigue scenario seems like a story you could enjoy, then I'd definitely say to go for it.

--Linda Mowery


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