The Other Groom by Lisa Bingham
(Harlequin Historical, $5.25, PG) 0-373-29277-5
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I'm a great fan of connected books.  I'm also a fan of individual connected books that have enough information about the previous book or books so that I read them out of order and still feel like I have enough information to understand what I'm reading.  Lisa Bingham's The Other Groom does not do this. 

Charles Winslow III married Louisa Haversham Winslow by proxy.  Now Phoebe Gray is masquerading as Louisa and is waiting to meet Mr. Winslow at the train station in New York City. Phoebe had been hired as a companion to Louisa to travel from England.  Phoebe was on her way to marry Neil Ballard, a boy she had been close to years before in an orphanage. They had corresponded for years and she had agreed to marry Neil who was now living on a farm in the West.  Sometime on the way over, Louisa and Phoebe decided to switch places.  They looked enough alike that they could do this. 

Neil Ballard is watching Louisa-Phoebe waiting for the train.  He decided to come for Phoebe after the fake Phoebe marries someone else on the trip out West to meet him.   He has met the fake Phoebe - real Louisa and her husband and discovered that someone was trying to kill both women.  He also discovers Louisa and Phoebe are twins who were separated at birth and did not know about it.  Phoebe notices the tall, handsome man watching her, but does not realize that it is her old friend and fiancé Neil.  When he knocks her to the ground after what sound like a gunshot is heard, she is surprised and concerned.

When the train arrives, her husband's representative comes to tell her that, regrettably, her husband recently died, but left her a substantial sum.  Louisa-Phoebe is surprised to discover that he also left her custody of his daughter and the responsibility of managing most of his substantial fortune for this daughter.  Neil convinces the representative that Charles Winslow had hired him to be a bodyguard for Louisa-Phoebe.  He says his name is John Smith so that he can watch her and decide if he wants to ever tell her who he is.  He does know that the threat to her is real and wants to protect her.

The threat is from the women's uncle.  His twin brother, the women's father, betrayed him.  He spent twenty years on an island after being betrayed by his brother and is now bent on killing his brother and both of his nieces.  Neil has friends helping him watch for the threat.  Louisa-Phoebe, not knowing any of this, doesn't understand "Mr. Smith's" restrictions and chafes against them as she travels to Boston to her dead husband's home.

So many questions are never answered in this book that I can only assume were addressed in the first book.  For example, why does Neil know that Louisa and Phoebe are sisters and Phoebe does not know?  Why did Louisa's father marry her to Winslow by proxy in the first place? How did Louisa end up married to someone else?  Why did Phoebe group up in an orphanage?  All of these questions could have been addressed fairly quickly, but were not. 

There are also a number of questions about Charles's family in Boston that Phoebe never asks that certainly needed asking. For example, she discovers that her new stepdaughter is locked in a "school" for difficult children and kept very drugged.  She never asks for the details of why Evie is there.  She also never questions her new brother-in-law about his hatred toward her.  She takes far too long getting a different doctor to check out Evie. 

If you've read the previous book, The Other Bride, you might want to find out the resolution to the two women's lives, but I cannot recommend The Other Groom to anyone else.  It does not work well as a stand-alone. 

--B. Kathy Leitle


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