The Last Man in Town

Marry Me

The Most Wanted Bachelor

 
A Wedding Story by Susan Kay Law
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-052518-5
*****
Susan Kay Law delivers a real keeper with A Wedding Story! Far from the typical “road romance”, it offers an atypical setting and two uniquely captivating lovers. Historical romance fans, get set for a real joyride.

Kathryn Bright Goodale seeks out renowned adventurer James Bennett with a proposal born of desperation. Her late husband, Doctor Goodale, was himself an adventurer and a sometime colleague of Jim’s. Kate married the much-older doctor in order to provide her younger sisters with a decent upbringing, but the marriage was aloof and cool. As a wife, Kate had been mostly ignored; as a stepmother to the doctor’s own children, she had been resented. Her first meeting with Jim, ten years earlier, resulted in a memorable kiss in a garden before Jim learned the identity of the doctor’s new wife. It’s a kiss that neither has forgotten.

Doctor Goodale’s death has left Kate nearly destitute, as his estate passed to his children. But he received an invitation to participate in the Grand Centennial Race, a treasure hunt of sorts in honor of the upcoming 1900 centennial. The winner will receive fifty thousand dollars, and Kate wants Jim to help her win it. Her plan is to “hire” him, then split the prize money.

When Jim stops laughing, he proposes a plan of his own. He’ll use Kate’s invitation to enter the race, but she’ll come along as his “assistant”, if she insists in coming along at all. While not as desperate as Kate, Jim’s last expedition ended in the death of his partner in the Arctic, and he needs a way to get back on his feet. So, he reluctantly acquires a partner – the very same beauty whose kiss shook him ten years ago. Jim figures Kate won’t last long enough to make any trouble for him.

Kate has plenty of grit, though initially she’s built along the “spoiled twit” line, dragging along trunks loaded with perfume, eye cream, and ostrich-feather hats. Thankfully, Jim will have none of it, and when her strength emerges, it’s honest and sensible. Readers are spared the use of immature histrionics masquerading as “spunk”, though Kate’s dependence on using her feminine charms may not sit well with all readers. As they set out looking for their first clue, they must contend with a snoopy reporter and a host of other adventurers, some of who will use any means to win. Jim has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve, though, and he finds Kate to be the perfect sidekick.

The simmering attraction underlying their long-ago kiss hasn’t faded, and their close proximity causes it to heat up nicely. When it finally boils over, it’s in a most unusual place. There’s no turning back, and as Jim and Kate’s adventure takes them to places around the globe, their relationship deepens to something neither wants to admit, but knows is there. The final clue is found back in England, where Jim must make a decision that will affect the rest of his life.

The humor is abundant, the romance develops naturally, and the lead characters are just plain fun. Jim is a delightful hero. Second son of a dissolute earl, he feels he has little to offer a woman, but that doesn’t stop him from yearning for Kate. Kate, after years in a loveless marriage, finds Jim to be the most attractive man she’s ever met. Her longing for a grand love affair is palpable, as well as understandable. Once she gets past the ostrich feather hats, she comes into her own, and the decorative woman becomes someone truly likable.

A Wedding Story has everything going for it: humor, sexy leads, a fun storyline, and a breezy pacing that will draw the reader in on the adventure. Kudos to Susan Kay Law for breaking away from the pack and offering us something different. Don’t miss it.

--Cathy Sova


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