The Bride to Be or Not to Be?

If Wishes Were....Husbands

Stud for Hire?

Overnight Father
by Debbi Rawlins
(Harl. American #790, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16790-3
Attorney Matthew Monroe is engaged to the boss' daughter -- ready for promotions, partnership offers, the works -- when a small blip appears on his career radar screen. His first marriage wasn't annulled.

Matthew married Lexy Constantine seven years ago to give her a green card and him the necessary money to stay in school. He's always assumed that their marriage had been annulled. Now he's got just a few weeks before his upcoming marriage to rectify that glitch.

Lexy Monroe is sorting her bills, trying to decide which to pay this month and which she can postpone until next month. She's surprised and not very pleased to find Matthew on her front door. Matthew's information about their still valid marriage is just the tip of her doom and gloom iceberg. She's trying to scoot him out the door before Tasha, their daughter, comes home. Matthew doesn't know that he has a daughter. Lexy's bad luck is holding. Tasha meets Matthew, but one crisis is averted when Matthew doesn't make the necessary connection.

What really upsets Lexy is a telegram from her family in Hungary. She hasn't seen them in years, and they're making a trip to America to see her. They think she's living the American Dream. Lexy has never told them about her divorce, how she has two jobs and doesn't have her degree yet. How will she face them when they realize that she's been lying to them all these years?

To keep the plot moving in the right direction, Lexy and Matthew agree to work together. They'll portray a happily married family. Matthew will even pretend to be Tasha's father. They rationalize that it's only for a few days. After Lexy's family leaves, she'll sign the annulment agreement, and their life will go on as before. What can go wrong?

Well, for starters, Lexy's parents don't want to stay in a hotel. They decide that Matthew's home is big enough for all of them. She expected her parents, but hadn't planned on her brother and sister. That means that Matthew and Lexy will have to share his bedroom. Lexy remembers that her family doesn't speak English well, so they won't understand what she and Matthew are talking about. Guess who's been taking English lessons? The whole family. And when her family sees Matthew and his fiancée together, his glib explanation had me grinning.

There are enough light-hearted moments to keep the plot lively. Matthew and Tasha join forces as they survey an authentic Hungarian meal. Tasha balks at the strange assortment of food.

"Why can't I have peanut butter and jelly?" she mumbled to Lexy. "Ditto," Matthew muttered.

Lexy and Matthew start out as wooden characters who aren't very interesting and whose actions are predictable. Matthew just wants to get on with his life. Lexy is his past, while the boss's daughter is his future. Although he's curious about Tasha's father, I did wonder why such a supposedly intelligent man is such a dunderhead. Lexy was a virgin when she married him, and they only slept together once. Did he think that she slept with someone right after him? Apparently so.

Lexy is so full of pride that she refuses to accept Matthew's financial help. Sometimes using pride as a stumbling block feels right. Here it just seems foolish, considering that her daughter is involved.

As the story progresses, we witness Lexy and Matthew's growth, their awareness and concern for each other. Matthew begins to wonder about Lexy's father. Then a small kernel of hope starts growing, and he hopes that maybe he is this delightful child's father.

Near the end of the story, Matthew briefly reverts to cardboard-ism. He realizes that his future is not with the boss' daughter, but for just a moment he's the cellulose king as he tells himself that he needs to sleep with Lexy to get her out of his system.

Second chance stories are good ways to reaffirm that couples can make mistakes but have the good sense to let go of guilt, pride, ego and sundry other emotions and just enjoy that they've finally gotten it right. Such is the case with Overnight Father.

--Linda Mowery

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