Cassandra by Gloria Dale Skinner
(Pocket, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-01138-3
**
Did you hear the recent news story about the bride who was left at the altar while the groom flew to Tahiti which was to be their honeymoon destination? The jilted bride held the reception party anyway and danced to "I Will Survive." The runaway groom said the bride should have known he was getting cold feet. Cassandra is the 1889 fictional version. The true story is better.

The night before their wedding in Kansas City, Dustin Bennett asks Cassandra Rakefield to meet him in the garden of her house. Cassandra believes that he is there for romantic reasons and persuades him to make love to her rather than waiting for their wedding night. The next day the groom leaves her at the altar sending a note of explanation which Cassandra doesn't see. (Apparently, she should have known he was getting cold feet.)

Five years later, Cassandra is running her late grandfather's ranch in Wyoming. Dustin shows up because Cassandra has asked for funds from her trust and Dustin is there to determine whether her request is valid. This is not the meeting of fond ex-lovers. Dustin calls her a "hellcat" and Cassandra calls him a "double-crossing snake." Then she thinks how she's still drawn to the "ruggedly handsome man" and how he's the only man she's ever loved. He thinks how beautiful she is and how well she's grown up. She tells him to clear out. He says he's hanging around. And so it goes.

There is a convoluted story line about Cassandra's ranch troubles, but it's primarily a device to throw Cassandra into Dustin's arms again and again. (Doesn't this girl ever learn?)

If you're the forgive-and-forget, love-conquers-all, love-is-blind, to-forgive-is-divine type, maybe the premise of this story of love redeemed seems romantic. All of this left me very unpersuaded. In my opinion, Dustin's explanation of why he jilted her (when he finally belatedly reveals all) is specious at best. After all, this guy'd already celebrated the wedding night; he'd made his bed (all right, maybe it wasn't quite a bed), he should have lain in it. I think Cassandra would have been better off throwing the jerk out, dancing to "I Will Survive" and finding a better man. Sometimes the heroine ought to use her head as well as her heart. This should have been one of those times.

--Lesley Dunlap


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