A Bride in Waiting by Sally Carleen
(Silh. Romance #1376, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-19376-9
***
A funny thing happened on the way to a wedding. Or let's just say it's supposed to be funny.

A Bride in Waiting is the first story in a two-part series by Sally Carleen in which twins separated at birth discover one another and true love.

Sara Martin is on a mission to uncover her past. Shortly before her mother's death, Sara learned she was adopted. As she searched for information about her biological parents she unearthed a number of inconsistencies, including the fact that her birth certificate is a fake. Following remnants of an old paycheck stub, Sara arrives in Briar Creek, Texas, hoping not to find yet another dead end.

Dr. Lucas Daniels is on a mission to recover his past. Lucas is the son of convicted embezzler, Wayne Daniels. The elder Daniels was set up, but a youthful indiscretion made it easy for the town to presume his guilt. While he was in prison, the family moved away. Several years ago, Lucas returned to the site of his family's disgrace, became a doctor and is about to marry the daughter of one of the town's founding families. Or at least, he hopes he is.

Lucas' fiancée is the lovely, but flighty, Analise Brewster. "Both Lucas and Analise's father, Ralph, had thought that marriage would curb her impulsiveness, bring out a sense of responsibility, but so far the engagement hadn't done much in that direction." When A Bride in Waiting begins, Analise has skipped town prior to the wedding rehearsal leaving Lucas to explain her absence.

Lucas is about to go to the church to make a public announcement before the small-town grapevine learns and puts its own spin on Analise's hasty departure when he literally bumps into Sara. Sara is a dead ringer – albeit in a frumpy homemade dress – for the missing Analise.

Once he is convinced that Sara is not Analise, he makes her an offer. If she will impersonate his fiancée at the rehearsal and postpone his inevitable public humiliation, he will help her gather information about her background. Wayne Daniels' son and nobody's daughter enter into a shaky partnership.

Analise's parents and the town are fooled. But the wedding rehearsal begets the rehearsal dinner which begets Sara having to spend the night at the Brewster mansion in Analise's room. Analise and Sara may be mirror images, but they are polar opposites. Sara is disconcerted by a number of coincidences, at how easily she fits into Analise's size 9 narrow shoes and her lifestyle and by her growing attraction to Lucas.

Could Analise be her sister? If so, can she accept a role as Lucas' sister-in-law?

Sally Carleen has crafted a very open-ended story line to hook readers for the next installment, A Gift for the Groom. The characters are likeable and honorable. Lucas and Sara's conscious efforts to remain so create a great deal of unrelieved sexual tension which enhances a very simple plot.

Sara is developed through the search for her identity and her feelings for Lucas. His character, though not as well defined as Sara's, is projected through a screen of angst – about his past, about "doing the right thing," about his reputation in the town, about his impending marriage, and about his attraction to Sara.

While I wouldn't call A Bride in Waiting a romantic comedy, there are humorous moments here and there. The book does make interesting observations about the nature of twins raised in different environments, but it isn't a heavy psychological tome.

Reviewing this book is akin to basing a final grade on a student's midterm exam. Without having read A Gift for the Groom, it's hard to say whether Sally Carleen has accomplished her objectives – beyond making me want to read the second book in order to tie up the myriad of loose ends. As a result, readers should not look at this three-heart rating as an absolute. It, like A Bride in Waiting, is more like an incomplete.

--Gwen Osborne


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