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The Snow Bride by Debbie Macomber
(Mira, $14.95, G) ISBN 1-55166-736-3
In The Snow Bride, prolific author Debbie Macomber has penned a romance with a plot as thin as an Alaska black bear after a long winter’s hibernation. Its category romance origins are unmistakable – except for the hardcover and the elevated price, this book would be right at home on a bookstore’s series rack.

After six years working in Los Angeles as executive assistant to rich, handsome business tycoon Brad Fulton, Jenna Campbell is ready for a change. She loves Fulton but knows he only sees her as a means to an end – he’s really married to his company. She has met Dalton Gray in an Internet poetry chat room and is flying to Alaska to meet him. She is hoping that marriage will result. Her mother Chloe, a serial marrier who has recently divorced once again, thinks her plans are crazy, but Jenna is resolved.

When she reaches Fairbanks, Dalton is not there to meet her plane. A man who works in the airport cafeteria (is this a reliable source?) suggests she hitch a ride to Dalton’s town of Beesley with Reid Jamison, another passenger on her plane, who’s flying his small plane to his home in Snowbound. The two had sat side by side on the first flight but had experienced some conflict. Jenna doesn’t like her choices but decides she’s better off flying with Reid than staying in Fairbanks.

When Reid learns why Jenna is in Alaska, he flies straight to Snowbound without delivering Jenna to Beesley. Reid’s sister had had a bad romantic experience with Dalton, and he is saving Jenna from making the same mistake. Jenna is understandably furious, but minuscule Snowbound with its handful of eccentric residents doesn’t offer any amenities and she ends up staying with Reid.

Dalton went drinking and hooked up with another woman the night before so missed meeting Jenna’s flight. He has no intention of settling down with one woman but thinks he’s got a hot prospect in Jenna so he is set on tracking her down. Meanwhile, Chloe decides to get involved in her daughter’s love life by visiting Brad Fulton.

The story reads like a sequel. Reid’s sister’s disastrous romance with Dalton and her marriage to his best friend get some considerable attention – it’s supposedly the reason behind Reid’s abducting Jenna – but I was unable to uncover an earlier story.

The verbal clashes between Jenna and Reid are the best aspect of the book. Mostly, it’s unrealistic cutesy fluff with a thin, improbable plot. Because there are so many plot threads, there is little time to develop any of them well.

Generally the characters are stereotypes: the sweet, self-sacrificing heroine who’s been taken advantage of by just about everyone and only wants to be loved, the ditzy mom who goes through husbands like bon-bons but who feels entitled to inject herself into her daughter’s love life, the bad guy who’s a shallow opportunist and thinks he’s God’s gift to women (a real romance hero, of course, would never frequent Internet poetry chat rooms), and archetypical oddball geezers who pop in and out whenever conversation interruptus is needed to extend the drama.

There’s an underlying message in this story that recurs frequently in romance fiction: small town living is so much more deep and meaningful than living in a large city – even if the small town needs to increase its population in order to be characterized as dinky, the sun doesn’t shine for months on end, and there’s only one other female in the whole desolate region.

Considering the timing of its publication, it’s possible that the publisher’s marketing strategy for this book is that it might appeal to holiday shoppers looking for a gift for romance readers, but let the buyer beware. With so little substance in plot and character development, this isn’t a book I can recommend for yourself or as a gift.

--Lesley Dunlap

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