The Most Eligible...Daddy

Surprise! Surprise!

Special Order Groom by Tina Leonard
(Harl. American # 846, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16846-2
two hearts Crystal Jennings owns the only bridal store in Lover's Valley, Texas, but she's an anomaly. She doesn't really want to get married. You see, she has an Unfortunate Incident in her past that makes her gun shy. The night before her Senior Prom, she and Mitch McStern made love for the first time. Then Mitch stood her up for the prom, instead taking a perky cheerleader.

Okay, something like that might make a person reluctant, but surely not for thirteen years. Yep, our heroine is now thirty, unmarried and still doesn't trust the male of the species. Crystal's mother doubts that she'll ever be a granny. In what appears to be a joke, one of Crystal's relatives says she's going to pull the first available man into Crystal's shop. And guess who gets pulled in? Why, yes, it's Mitch McStern, now a surgeon and back in town for a while.

A plot that centers on a misunderstanding, a heroine who's been curious for thirteen years about why she was stood up and yet won't listen to any explanations...those are not plot devices designed to win points in my book. Crystal still seems to have the emotional development of an adolescent. Poor Mitch still cares for her, but the introduction of a Big Secret in his life seems to send the plot spinning in another direction.

Add to that Crystal's mother, who's having health problems. The only thing that will make her get better is to know that Crystal is going to be taken care of. So Mitch and Crystal bow to her wishes and decide to marry, but only 'till Mom is well...say, six weeks or so.

To demonstrate how emotionally stunted Crystal is, she tries on her prom dress, wondering how it would look as a wedding dress. At that point I didn't know whether to tell her to get a grip or get a life. Both seem apropos.

Throw in the perky cheerleader, who's now pregnant and about to be divorced. Do we feel sorry for her or hiss at her? Two buddies from high school are added for comic relief, but I don't know whether to laugh at them or shudder when they appear.

Rather than elaborate more on some of the incidents and characters that I found silly in Special Order Groom, let's just say that, instead of reading this book, I wish I'd been doing something more reading another book.

--Linda Mowery

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