The Bride Said, 'Finally!'"
by Cathy Gillen Thacker
(Harl. Amer. # 841, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-16841-1
When this book arrived in the mail to be reviewed, I warned myself that, as the old adage goes, it's never wise to judge a book by its cover. So what if the couple on the cover resembles the figurines on a wedding cake? So what if I'd never have had the nerve to buy this book in a store for fear that the salesman would read the title out loud with other (male) shoppers hovering nearby?

After reading The Bride Said, "Finally!", it became grimly apparent, however, that old adages shouldn't necessarily be heeded as gospel. Whoever it was that said you can't judge a book by its cover obviously never read Cathy Gillen Thacker's latest installment of her "Lockharts of Texas" series. The hero is infuriating and the heroine is as teeth-grittingly pathetic as the book's title.

Jake Remmington and Jenna Lockhart were childhood sweethearts who, on the night they were planning to elope, had a major wrench thrown into their plans when Jake's snobby, elitist parents stopped the couple from seeing their runaway marriage through to its fruition. They were from two different worlds, the Remmingtons had said. Jenna was a gold digger, they had said. (And so on and so on.) Uncertain what he should do, Jake left town after vowing his undying love for Jenna. He told her to wait for him. He promised that he would come back. And he does. Seven years later, divorced and with a child.

Jenna Lockhart has never gotten over Jake Remmington. She has tried to date, but all of these years later there is still no man she wants in her company - let alone in her bed - but Jake. The fact that he had promised to come back for her, but married another woman only a few short weeks after he left town, should but doesn't matter; Jenna still can't get that cowboy Jake Remmington out of her heart. So when a divorced Jake shows up at Jenna's dressmaking shop with his daughter in tow, proclaiming that he wants to take up where they left off seven years ago, of course it will only be a matter of time before Jenna accepts him back with open arms…

There are several aspects of The Bride Said, "Finally!" that make it a less than acceptable read. Space constraints dictate that only a few be touched on, so let's explore the most poignant ones. First of all, in terms of simple storytelling mechanics, the characters themselves are not believable. Jake's daughter Alex is five years old, but is penned to possess motives, thoughts, and a command of the English language that is light years ahead of her age group. Jake's ex-wife Melinda is portrayed as the most shallow, one-dimensional woman to ever walk the face of the earth, with no thoughts or feelings (at all) for anyone but herself. When you can't quite buy the fact that the characters in a book you're reading could be real people, it makes the novel a hard sell.

Worse yet, the story's protagonists are difficult to respect. Jake has a verbal penchant for twisting events in such a way that Jenna is, in his mind at least, just as at fault for his bad actions as he himself. Even worse is the fact that Jenna starts to believe it after he points out the supposed error of her ways to her. Why should Jake feel guilty for waiting seven years before returning to Jenna? She should have fought harder for him if she wanted to marry him, shouldn't she have?

In one particularly ulcer-inducing scene, Jake takes Jenna to a party his parents are throwing (to welcome his ex-wife Melinda back into town no less!) Jake, in front of half of the population of Laramie, Texas, follows Melinda into her bedroom to talk and returns with her lipstick kisses all over him. When Jenna asks to be taken home, whereupon she dumps him for a day or two, Jake is furious at Jenna for giving up on them so easily. (WHAT??!!) The author explains, "He wanted a love that would stand up to the pressures life presented, not collapse under the weight of them."

The worst aspect of The Bride Said "Finally!" is the utter lack of respect that is given to women within its covers. From putting Jenna down and making her feel guilty for placing more emphasis on her career than on the man that has humiliated her countless times to the nth degree, to out and out stating that male opinions are more credible than female opinions because they aren't based on emotion, the values put forth in this book are offensive and appalling.

By the end of The Bride Said "Finally!”, if there are any good aspects to what you've just read, they are completely overshadowed by the bad. Unless you have fantasies that revolve around being some man's doormat, chances are you will have a hard time finishing this novel without heading to the refrigerator for a dose of Mylanta to see you through it.

--Tina Engler

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