Solution: Marriage by Barbara Benedict
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1392, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24392-8
**
Depending on your outlook, Solution: Marriage features either a delightful duo or a dreadful one, that of a marriage of convenience and a secret baby. I'm ambivalent; if the story's done well, then I'll enjoy it. If it unravels right in front of me, then I take an active dislike.

Based on the cover and the first page, Solution: Marriage has potential. "Lucky Parker was back in town. The news ripped through Mamie's Main Street Styling Salon like a midsummer tornado . . . " Four pages later Callie Magruder starts her interminable list of why Lucky has always been unlucky for her. And the list really doesn't stop until near the end of the story. If I wanted more than two hundred pages of nitpicking and reasons for past grievances, I'd read legal briefs.

Ten years ago Callie and Luke Parker had a brief affair. Luke left for New York and a football career, leaving Callie and his cold-hearted, indifferent father behind. Young and pregnant with Luke's baby, Callie married a local boy and then watched the marriage disintegrate. She gave up the idea of nursing school and instead works as a beautician. She really wants no part of Luke now that he's back. She only remembers the heartache and that she was left behind, without even a backward glance from Luke. < P> Luke's feeling far from his youthful sobriquet of Lucky. His football career is over, he's found out by chance that he's got a son and his father is badgering him to join the family firm. He wants to get to know his son Rob, but absolutely refuses to work for his contemptible father. Luke thinks he's got the ideal solution to his problems. If he marries Callie, then he'll be in constant contact with his son. Also, knowing that his father hates Callie's family, he hopes that his marriage to Callie will royally anger his father, so much so that the demand to work at the family firm will be retracted.

Luke does convince Callie to marry him, but he has to make some big promises to tip the scales in his favor. Callie knows that Luke's father considers her Jezebel, Tokyo Rose and Typhoid Mary rolled into one. Fine! She hates him, too, mainly because he used his influence to cause Callie's family to lose the family farm. If Luke will promise to get the farm back, then Callie will marry him. For one year only . . . with no sex . . . oh, joy! There's even a calendar in the kitchen where she marks off each day.

Ever wonder what two characters see in each other? Callie mistrusts Luke and faults him at every turn. He moves with her into her small apartment and agrees to sleep on the sofa . . . Ulterior Motive. He offers to take her and her son to dinner . . . Ulterior Motive. He wants to buy her a car . . . Ulterior Motive. She has absolutely no intention of telling Luke that he's a father. If so, he'd have an . . . Ulterior Motive. Geez, it's so bad that if he sneezes, she'll accuse him to trying to infect her. I do believe that Miss Gulch was more forgiving of Toto than Callie is to Luke.

Yet Luke still hopes that Callie will forgive him, come to love him again and will allow the three of them to become a family. As hateful as she continually is, Luke's constancy is admirable. Dumb, but admirable. Did he get hit on the head too much from those years of football? Respecting Callie as the mother of his son is one thing, but he actually wants to make their marriage work. The reasons for his devotion to Callie truly elude me.

Aside from the fact that Callie is perpetually hateful, her grammar threw me. Thanks to Luke's generosity, she'll finally be entering nursing school, yet she uses this kind of grammar. "Me and Reb had him right off." Several times she refers to her son and herself as "me and Robbie." What purpose is served by denigrating a character's education or lack thereof?

A story that starts out with such promise fizzles because of the heroine's continued anger and resentment. Those of you with teenaged daughters may relate to Callie, whose volatility becomes tiresome. This heroine just doesn't seem worthy of the term.

--Linda Mowery


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