Stay Tuned: Wedding At 11:00
by Bonnie Tucker
(Harl. L&L #52, $3.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44052-9
***
Maggie St. Clair is a prize-winning television journalist who's come home to Sugar Land, Texas, as a news anchor on the local TV station, KSLT. Staying in Sugar Land is entirely her choice; stations from all across the country regularly try to woo her away. Her co-anchor, John Hennessy, is a high school drop-out who managed to get his diploma by passing an equivalency exam, but he hasn't been to college and his only experience is at KSLT. Both are pretty sure she's the brains and he's the beauty in their pairing, a match-up that's made their newscast number two in the Houston market.

To make them number one, one of the station's owners announces to a gossip columnist that Maggie and John are an item, and plan on getting married at the peak of the November sweeps period. On the air. Maggie and John balk, until the owner dangles the promise of a trip to New York before them. Maggie, terrified of flying, wants no part of it, but John recognizes this is his chance to wow producers face-to-face. By guile and determination, he gets Maggie onto a plane.

I suspect my own fear of flying is part of the reason I liked this book so much. Maggie loses it more completely than I can dream of doing and, if I didn't have a friend fond of describing future disasters in the same kind of loving detail, I might have found her precise explanations of how the airplane was going to crash unbelievable and unnerving. As it was, I liked Maggie all the more because under the veneer of her competence lurks this huge, fatalistic terror. Away from an airplane, she's fine; inside one, she's a basket case.

I also liked John because he never lets his fears and insecurities slow him down. He knows his lack of education is a handicap and makes it a point to go to schools to persuade students not to make his mistakes. He recognizes how many people take him for just another pretty face. Instead of looking at these things as insurmountable obstacles, he just sees them as challenges to overcome.

As a general rule, I'm not fond of the old, "I'm not good enough for her/I'm not attractive enough for him," storyline. It gets used here, but I thought it worked because it was well-grounded in both characters' personalities and mutual history. Maggie is a TV journalism star; John is a nobody who caught a lucky break. And the one time anything developed between them, John did walk out on Maggie without an explanation or a backward glance. The "not-good-enough" also worked because neither Maggie nor John spent much time moping about it; both treated it as a fact of life to be dealt with.

The only real complaint I have about this book is that a little too much stuff is piled on for such a short book. Wacky family, shady dealings, fear of flying, kid from the wrong side of the tracks, golden girl who isn't as golden on the inside, career choices . . . I think something could have been pruned here and made the story stronger. Still, if you want a fun, light romance featuring a hero and heroine with all-too-human fears and doubts, turn your reading dial to Stay Tuned: Wedding at 11:00.

--Katy Cooper


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