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Found: One Wife

The Wrong Bride by Judith Arnold
(Harl. Super #830, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-70830-0
From April through June Harlequin will introduce us to three women whose "New Millennium resolution is . . . By The Year 2000: Satisfaction!" Peggy Nicholson and Rebecca Winters will also be contributing authors to this series.

In the prologue, set in Spring 1999, Cassie Webber and Phillip Keene are saying good-bye. Phillip, an MBA student at Harvard and Cassie, a PBS television producer, find themselves in bed on Phillip's last night in Boston. They're finally admitting their love, but their timing isn't the best. Phillip, returning home to Ohio to tell his parents that he doesn't want to run the family furniture construction business, promises Cassie that he'll be back soon.

In Chapter One, almost a year later, Cassie spies a wedding invitation on her best friend Diane's desk. It's an invitation to Phillip's wedding. Cassie again feels the sting of his betrayal. After their passionate night, Cassie hasn't heard from Phillip. Starting out as a running joke, Cassie and Diane pretend all sorts of heinous things they could do to Phillip if they attended his wedding. Renting a ferocious tiger is one of their milder suggestions.

Cassie and Diane work together on a PBS children's show, Dream Wheels, which features kids on magical bicycles, traveling to different locales. The two women decide that they'll go to Phillip's hometown the week before the wedding and film a Dream Wheels episode at his family's furniture factory. While they're there, maybe they'll throw minor mishaps in Phillip's path. Cassie's goal is that Phillip experience just a little bit of the hurt she's felt this past year.

Phillip Keene returned to his hometown to find that his dad had overextended his credit and was in danger of losing the family business. Phillip thinks that marrying the daughter of the man who holds the loans will give him more time to save the family business. While he likes and admires his fiancée, he's not madly in love with her. She's not Cassie. But Cassie is in his past. Or is she?

There's an interesting cast of secondary characters that add interest to The Wrong Bride. Diane, the wisenheimer sidekick, has some of the best ideas for revenge. I'd like her in my corner. Phillip's fiancée and Cassie's cameraman have all the earmarks of an interesting couple, too. The only jarring note among these distinctive characters is that of Phillip's future father-in-law, whose motivations aren't clear. Not knowing why he's trying to sabotage the furniture business leads to all kinds of speculations.

This is the second HSR book this month to feature characters that work for television stations. The little bit of information and the small glimpses of life behind the scenes was great. The author made the fictitious Dream Wheels sound so appealing that it's a shame that it's not a real show.

Phillip is not what I call a typical romance hero. He's too much of a realist. He's going to marry his perky fiancée in order to save the family business. At no time did I consider him a martyr. He's matter-of-fact when he analyzes the situation and determines what he thinks is the best course of action. I didn't even blame the guy. I just accepted that he'd do what needed to be done, sacrificing his relationship with Cassie.

The ending is a bit jarring and at odds with the rest of the book. There's also a misunderstanding that could have been a mess, but is kept to a minor role. Part of me wondered if this story could have been spiced up by letting dear ol' Diane use one of her stink bombs to liven up the day.

The Wrong Bride had a strong heroine and her wonderfully quirky best friend. The hero was the weak link here. Instead of the wrong bride, maybe we had the wrong groom.

--Linda Mowery

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