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Her Unforgettable Fiancé
by Allison Leigh
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1381, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24381-2
***
Although I found this book quite readable in many respects, “unforgettable” is not a particularly accurate description of either the “fiancé” or the “her”. Overly familiar situations and insufficient character development made for lengthy stretches where the book did not engage my complete attention.

The third book in The Stockwells of Texas series, this is Kate Stockwell’s story. Kate’s father, the patriarch of this wealthy family, is a cold, manipulative liar. Dying of cancer, he has revealed to Kate and her three brothers that their mother did not drown in a boating accident when they were small, as he led them to believe. In fact, she ran away, after which he divorced her. There is reason to believe that she may not only still be alive, but might be the famous artist known as Madelyn LeClaire. I haven’t read the previous two books in the series, but enough background information was supplied to bring me up to speed quickly, and anything else I really needed to know was included unobtrusively in the story as it went along.

To help locate the woman who may be their mother, Kate’s brothers have hired Brett Larson, owner of “the best private investigative agency in the entire Dallas area.” Brett and Kate, of course, have history, and it’s a history that most romance readers will recognize immediately - poor boy and privileged girl meet in high school, fall deeply, passionately in love and plan to marry. After graduation, however, his insecurities drive him to spend all his time creating a successful business that will support her in the manner to which she is accustomed, and her insecurities lead her to believe that he’s just stringing her along and doesn’t really want to marry her at all. They argue, split, and she marries (and then divorces) someone else. Both are still bitter, but time has not diminished their sexual attraction.

We learn all this quite early, and then spend most of the rest of the book covering essentially the same ground. Kate, desperate to make some contribution to the search for her mother, insists on traveling with Brett to Boston because they think that one of the art galleries there represents her mother’s paintings. The development of this plot consists mostly of Kate and Brett visiting one gallery after another, asking if anyone knows Madelyn LeClaire. It may be an accurate depiction of the reality of private investigation, but it doesn’t add a lot of momentum to the story.

The fact that the galleries are in Boston seems largely to be an excuse to get Brett and Kate out of Dallas and into a situation where they must share a hotel room, but, night after night, we see much the same thing. Brett wants to make love to her, but resists. It may be smart, but it doesn’t exactly ratchet up the sexual tension.

While the story as a whole is rather static, there are some nice moments. Right after Brett and Kate check into the hotel, Kate throws a hissy fit to establish that she’s in charge because her family is paying the bills. Brett’s reaction is one I cheered because I’ve longed for it to happen too many times in too many romances - he picks up and simply walks out on her money and her attitude. Unfortunately, high spots like this only serve to reinforce how little happens in too much of the book.

Both Brett and Kate are difficult to cheer for. Both hang on too long to the same insecurities and misunderstandings that split them up in the first place and the rest of us are provided with little added insight. I can understand that the characters might be reluctant to reveal their deepest feelings and vulnerabilities to each other, but we do need to see some change and development. Additionally, as a reader I expect to be taken “inside” to a deeper level of awareness, one that makes me really care that they solve their problems and find happiness together. Without it, the story was a pleasant diversion, but not particularly compelling.

--Judi McKee


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