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Taming Tall, Dark Brandon
by Joan Elliott Pickart
(Silh. Desire #1223, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76223-2
****
Tall, dark and handsome Brandon Hamilton was probably used to women falling at his feet until Andrea Cunningham tumbled into his life.

Advertising executive Andrea Cunningham is a workaholic. At 27, she is suffering from exhaustion. Her doctor has issued a warning and a prescription for two weeks off in a low-stress environment. Andrea begrudgingly heads for Prescott, a small town miles and light-years away from her high-rise, high-pressure lifestyle in Phoenix. She's sure the boredom will kill her.

Brandon Hamilton runs Hamilton House, site of Andrea's fortnight in exile. As she is about to check in, Andrea literally falls at Brandon's feet. The altitude and her weakened condition (and quite possibly Brandon's good looks) cause her to faint dead away.

Brandon is a recovering workaholic who "worked sixteen- and eighteen-hour days and most weekends, then filled any leftover hours with a fast-track social life." Heeding the warning signs of a heart attack, he has left the fast-lane in New York to return to his hometown. Brandon has restored Hamilton House to its former glory. But old habits die hard. He has obsessed about his new venture. And although he's in denial about his own possible relapse, Brandon recognizes all the potentially dangerous signs in Andrea. "`You're a carbon copy of who I used to be,'" he tells her.

Brandon's motives are not altruistic. He is attracted to her and wants to be her personal 12-step program. During her two weeks in Prescott, he vows to show Ms. Cunningham how to get a life.

That may be easier said than done. Andrea was orphaned at four and spent the next 16 years in foster homes. Her job, er career is her life. "A job is where you go to put in the hours so you can collect a paycheck. A career comprises hopes, dreams, goals. It requires total dedication." Simple things like family, friends, holidays and small towns are just concepts to Andrea.

With the resources of Hamilton House (which include his feisty twin septuagenarian aunts), the town of Prescott and his growing feelings for Andrea at his command, Brandon launches his personal campaign.

Taming Tall, Dark Brandon is the first story in Joan Elliott Pickart's "The Bachelor Bet" trilogy. The titles of the novel and the miniseries may be misleading. Brandon doesn't really need taming. Andrea just needs to slow down. There really isn't a bachelor "bet," per se. The three men in the series don't seem to envision marriage in their futures. The odds appear to be against it.

Taming Tall, Dark Brandon is a very simple, yet heartwarming story. The main characters are well-defined. However, I question the wisdom of releasing this story in June since the action takes place during the Christmas holidays. (I read this story during Chicago's first real series of spring days and resented the reappearance of even fictional snow!)

As in any good lead-off novel, Taming Tall, Dark Brandon introduces characters to be revisited in the two subsequent romances. We get to know the next two bachelors in the series Dr. Ben Rizzoli and accountant Taylor Sinclair and "The Aunts." Pickart carefully creates an interest in the upcoming stories without overshadowing the first.

Taming Tall, Dark Brandon is an uncomplicated story with "dancing butterlies" and engaging characters I enjoyed spending time with.

--Gwen Osborne


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