A Knight in Rusty Armor

The Passionate G-Man

The Bride-in-Law by Dixie Browning
(Silh. Desire #1251, $3.75, PG-13) 0-373-76251-8
For those category romance fans who are tired of cowboys, babies, twenty-something heroines, and, yes, even brides, Dixie Browning's The Bride-in-Law is the book for you. Just ignore the title.

Annie Summers lives a life of order and decorum. A minister's daughter, she has always done the right thing, even sharing her shabby Victorian home with her cousin Bernie, a 71-year-old walking eyesore who considers "Jerry Springer the epitome of educational TV." Living with Bernie and her ferocious, evil-minded cat named Zen tests Annie's patience, but Annie's a credit to her deceased parents -- therefore, eviction of both cat and cousin is out of the question.

Eviction ends up being unnecessary when Annie comes home one day and finds out that Jerry Springer's biggest fan has up and married, taking temporary residence at the Blue Flamingo Motel with her new husband, Harold.

Annie thinks that Bernie has simply lost her mind and drives to the hotel to retrieve her wayward cousin. It's there that she meets a tall, dark hooligan -- actually, Harold's son.

Tucker Dennis isn't too thrilled with his father running off with some cheap-perfumed floozy with a bad haircolor job. But he's not thrilled with much of anything lately either. His finances are in the toilet because of a nasty divorce settlement, and women just mean trouble, his new step-mother and Annie, "a stick figure done in shades of brown," included. Overwhelmed with the day-to-day affairs of his construction business and worried about his troubled son, this single father is simply bitter and angry at what life has dealt to him.

What I liked about The Bride-in-Law is that there was minimal "I-hate-you-but-I-lust-after-you" setup between Tucker and Annie. At first, Tucker's simply a ruffian to Annie and Annie's just blah to Tucker. But once they start working together to find a living arrangement for their elders, this couple finds that they simply enjoy talking to each other -- the attraction grows out of that.

There are also complications that Browning handled deftly. Annie is engaged to a "Peter Pan" type of guy. Even though Annie and Tucker make love before Annie breaks things off with the other guy, I forgave the author. (I'm not a big fan of cheating, but if you read the book you'll see what I mean.) I also liked that Browning didn't try to wrap up every complication by the end of the book, except to get this thoroughly delightful twosome together. I felt as though Browning used the constraints of the category romance genre well, but gave the story interesting twists. And lastly, it was a nice break to have a heroine who was 36 and a hero in his 40s. I could understand Annie's despair about being in a relationship with a guy who couldn't/wouldn't grow up and her fears about growing old alone.

With over 65 romances for Silhouette, Browning is a name that's familiar to many readers, and with The Bride-in-Law, she doesn't let her fans down. It was funny, charming, sexy, and romantic -- and I closed the book hoping that Zen finally returns home.

--Diana Burrell

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