Beginning With Baby

Wish You Were Here

First Comes Love by Christie Ridgway
(Avon, $5.99, R) 0-380-81895-7
All Kitty Wilder wants in life is to be normal. Her definition of normal includes a husband, children, and a minivan. Her family history is against her. She is the direct descendant of Rose Wilder, the first Madame in the mining town of Hot Water, California. The motto of the Wilder women has always been:
"Wilder Women Don't Wed and They Don't Run."

Kitty has plans to disregard the "don't run" part of the motto by leaving at the end of the summer. Her current job as the one-person PR department for the Old Town Historical area has paid the bills, but she has had to spend all of her summers since she was nineteen depicting the first Wilder Madame in the restored brothel, "The Burning Rose." This doesn't quite fit with her desire for a normal life and now that the gorgeous, seductive mother who abandoned the infant Kitty to her great-aunt has returned to town, she wants out.

Dylan Matthews left Hot Water eight years earlier. He is the descendant of the first lawman of the town. His father is currently a judge. Dylan had planned to follow in his father's footsteps and go to law school, but the summer before leaving for graduate school a tragic incident changed his plans. He instead ended up as a successful FBI agent who has become somewhat of a celebrity because of his daring rescues. He had no plans to return to Hot Water until he discovered that for the last eight years he has been legally married to Kitty.

The town celebrates the end of the tourist season with "Heritage Day" each year. One of the features is a mock wedding ceremony, reenacting the marriages between the gold miners and their women. A little-known law allows a woman to hold on to the marriage certificate for up to a year. If she decides not to file it, the marriage is void, but if she files the certificate, the marriage is legal. The last Heritage Day that Dylan was in town, Kitty and Dylan went through the mock ceremony when each of them was fairly drunk. After Dylan left town, she filed the certificate and kept it a secret, even from the groom. Now he wants to know why.

There is a lot of dry humor in Ridgway's writing. For example, I love this description:

"...Kitty glimpsed a menacing-looking machine parked against the curb. A motorcycle. The kind of motorcycle that would drive off by itself with a snide snort of laughter unless its rider was dressed in black clothes--all black--and wore his black hair loose and dangerous."

The humor is good, but it is not slapstick. Ridgway combines the funny with the serious as she peels away the reasons why Kitty filed the marriage certificate and the reasons why Dylan does not want to stay in town. I did get a little impatient with Kitty for taking so long to explain her reasons to Dylan, but when she did, I understood her reluctance.

The examination of Kitty's hostile relationship with her mother is compelling, particularly with the family history and the eyes of a small town watching. Her change in attitude toward her mother is realistically told and not tied up in a perfect bow at the end.

Another very good reason to read this book is a secondary romance between two middle-aged people. It is a hot romance, as hot as the romance between the hero and heroine. It could easily have been the main focus of the book. No names can be included here because the surprise element of this romance is part of the charm.

First Comes Love is the kind of contemporary romance I like. It has humor, people I believe could be real, and the serious stuff makes sense. Christie Ridgway has another winner.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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