The Groom Came C.O.D. by Mollie Molay
(Harl. Am. Rom. #839, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16839-X
Bridal shop owner Melinda Carey is facing bankruptcy and thinking about another wedding fiasco where sheíll have to refund money to a couple. In an attempt to fantasize her problems away, she decides to computerize her own perfect wedding, complete with her secret high school crush - the one who, inexplicably, she just found in a computer dating site looking for love. In her distraction, Melinda pushes the send button and off the fantasy wedding goes to the newspaper, the caterers, and others. She doesnít realize she did it and doesnít think any more of it until a very irate Ben Howard pounds on her door, demanding to know who his unknown bride is and why his engagement has been announced.

There is a problem here. I didnít believe this scenario. I read it and said - hmm, cute plot idea but I just canít buy it. There are no other signs that Melinda is a ditz. (Her aunt, who raised her and is the town character, is another story - I might have believed it of her.) I also didnít believe that Ben would ever really go along with the idea. His uncle, his only remaining family member, would like him to get married and threatens him - but so what? Ben is wealthy and the two are close. No, it was an interesting plot idea but I didnít think the characters, who seem like responsible folks most of the time, would ever get in this predicament and, if they did, then proceed to get themselves in worse and worse trouble.

However I am a reviewer, so I read on. Since they decide to pretend their engagement is the real thing, they become more attracted to each other. Melindaís aunt and Benís uncle have already had a long-ago love affair and they are all for the romance. One other subplot is Benís search for the person who put his name into the computer dating service - but that wasnít a compelling subplot since Ben had nothing at stake there other than not wanting to be embarrassed. (Mental note to self: Wouldnít someone check before putting a guyís data in the computer to see he is who he says he is? And if no one does completely check someoneís credentials, would you want to use this service?) He does have a fight with Melinda over whether he believes she didnít do it - but I didnít buy that either!

The hero and heroine are nice, they care about other peopleís feelings but, unfortunately, they were too intelligent to do any of this - Ben is a savvy businessman who figures out how to save Melindaís failing business, for heavenís sake! -- and so the story never really regained plausibility. These characters need to either be a little dumb or spacey to make all these plot devices work. Unfortunately then no one would care too much about whether they end up really married or not. Oh well.

--Irene Williams

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