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The Wedding Gamble

Three Kisses by Cait London
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80037-3
Three Kisses is a good first draft but it definitely needs a rewrite or two. While I usually like a lot of action in my stories, this tale has too much going on; it feels rushed and directionless. Also, although Three Kisses is filled with some very intriguing characters, their individual stories do not receive the time and attention they deserve.

Cloe Matthews is going back to Lolo, the small town where she grew up, a town she hates with good reason. Lolo is run by a group of powerful men, referred to as "The Club," and they are very good at getting rid of anyone who stands in their way.

When Cloe was ten, her mother was raped and her father was convicted of killing the rapist. Cloe never believed her father was guilty and her life was never the same after her father went to jail and died just two years later.

Fortunately, she had the love and support of her mother, her brothers and her sisters beneath the skin; an all-girls club dubbed the "Wild Willows." Cloe, Angelica and Josy loved and supported each other through the worst of times growing up. Cloe also had the love and support of Michael Bearclaw.

At least she thought she did until she turned nineteen and asked him to make love to her and he refused. Hurt and angry, Cloe runs from Lolo to Chicago where she meets and marries a man who uses her talent and leaves her for the boss' daughter. At thirty-one, Cloe is divorced and broke but not broken; she's determined to put her life together again.

Her first order of business is to make sure her mother's coffee shop doesn't fail an event which would make The Club very happy. Upon her return, Cloe expects to see Angelica and Josy but she's surprised and dismayed to see that Michael has come back to Lolo. And she has no idea that Michael has pictures that could prove her father's innocence.

The romance between Cloe and Michael isn't very complex and doesn't require much attention; so the author provides lots of other romances and subplots to fill the void. Sometimes, because of the many romances and subplots, Three Kisses seems directionless. Like it can't decide whether to head into suspense with The Club and its villainous members or whether to just stick to the romances of Cloe, Cloe's mother, Josy and Angelica.

Eventually the romances win, but they're all so rushed that none of them fulfill their potential. You know that a romance is in trouble when you find you're much more interested in a secondary couple than you are in the main couple. I thought Angelica and Quinn's romance was much more interesting, much more complex than Cloe and Michael's romance and I was disappointed that it didn't receive the time and attention it deserved.

Also, I was disappointed that The Club didn't play a larger role in this story more of a threatening presence. Unfortunately, this just never happens. Finally, after all the heinous acts of The Club are revealed, there's a need to see justice done, to see this loathsome group punished for their many, many crimes. The book's ending didn't satisfy my sense of justice.

So even though I genuinely like the characters in this book, I can't recommend Three Kisses. This story should be rewritten, perhaps even made into two books, and more time should be spent on the individual stories of the intriguing characters, both good and bad, that make up the Peyton-Place-like town of Lolo.

--Judith Flavell

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