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Married By Accident
by Christine Rimmer
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1250, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24250-6
**
Married By Accident is the fourth of the Bravo family series, Conveniently Yours. The Bravo family's marriages may have begun in name Only – but were they destined to be true love matches after all? I'd guess that even a romance novice would answer that question affirmatively.

My first reaction to this book was disdain for its cover, with a little baby/marshmallow creature sticking its head through an engagement ring. My second reaction was to laugh at the characters' last names, Bravo and Yuma. Then, hard as I tried, I couldn't decipher the Bravo family tree. When I started reading the story, things did not get better.

Melinda Bravo is an aimless young woman. She's relocated from Manhattan to Los Angeles. Independently wealthy, she's not emotionally involved in anything. She has a new job at an upscale lingerie boutique and is driving to a star's home for a private showing. When her BMW is hit by a pickup truck and won't start, she accepts the cowboy's offer to drive her to the star's mansion.

When Melinda gets in the truck and sees a pregnant young woman, she erroneously assumes that it's the cowboy's wife. Actually, Annie Logan, eighteen, is living here, hoping that her absent husband will return. Her brother, Cole Yuma, has come from Bluebonnet, Texas, to convince the young woman to return home.

Melinda and her lingerie selection are rebuffed by the star in a clichéd scene ala Joan Crawford. I won't buy clothes from you. You're more beautiful than I am – is the star's theme. Right after they leave, Annie goes into labor and asks Melinda to accompany them. If Melinda hadn't miscarried, this would have been her due date. Sentimentality, hormones or the need to move the plot along are all the invitation Melinda needs to be with Annie during delivery.

Melinda gets emotionally involved with Annie and her son, visiting them, bringing lavish gifts and generally bordering on obsessive/compulsive behavior. Cole knows that he won't be able to get Annie to consider returning home as long as Melinda is a presence in her life.

From here on out, things just become more exaggerated. Annie won't leave without Melinda. Melinda agrees to go to Bluebonnet, Texas. After all, there's nothing keeping her in LA or anywhere else for that matter. She's recovering from a long-term relationship that went sour when her lover, an established, older poet, wouldn't marry her when she got pregnant. Melinda's parents are portrayed as vapid; they want Melinda to return to the SOB who left her.

Arriving in Bluebonnet, the deception begins...in an innocent manner, but it's still hard to accept. Cole and Annie's dad is recovering from a stroke and is reluctant to leave his room. Seeing Melinda and the baby for the first time, he assumes that Cole and Melinda are married, with a son of their own. He seems so genuinely happy that everyone is reluctant to tell him the truth. Thus begins the second half of the book.

A book which lacks a strong hero will never get my recommendation. Cole, spurned initially by Melinda, spends most of the book telling himself that she's leaving, he shouldn't get involved, she's rich and he's not, she's not right for him, he's not right...blah, blah, blah.

Motivations of all the major characters are sketchy. Why they behave as they do is largely left up to our interpretation, an irritating writing technique. Also, Cole and Melinda's sexual rebuff then encouragement becomes tedious.

Annie is the only character with any spunk and considering that she ultimately experiences a happily ever after herself, there's not even a spin-off book in the works for her. No wonder the Bravo family wonders if they're destined to have true love matches. If they're as shallow as Melinda and as spineless as Cole, who cares?

--Linda Mowery


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