has also reviewed:

A Bride in Waiting

With this Child

A Gift for the Groom
by Sally Carleen
(Silhouette Romance, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-19382-3
A Gift for the Groom is the second story in a two-part series by Sally Carleen in which twins separated at an early age discover one another and true love. I recently read and reviewed the first novel, A Bride in Waiting, and had hoped some of the "loose ends" in that story would be resolved in the second installment. That was not the case.

Briar Creek, Texas residents Analise Brewster and Dr. Lucas Daniels are close friends who are engaged to be married. Analise is a member of one the town's founding families. Lucas is the son of a man wrongly convicted of embezzling from the local bank several years ago. When A Bride in Waiting begins, Analise has skipped town a week prior to the wedding. She has left Lucas to explain her absence at the rehearsal dinner.

In A Gift for the Groom, we learn why she left. Analise went in search of the ultimate gift for Lucas. She wants to find out who really committed the crime for which Wayne Daniels went to prison.

Analise has hired detective Nick Claiborne to find the person she believes actually committed the crime and has insisted on accompanying Nick while he tracks down the culprit. Those who have read the first book already know who it is, but A Gift for the Groom backtracks over the same period as A Bride in Waiting to tell Nick and Analise's story.

Analise has rationalized that once Lucas' father has been exonerated, her in-laws to-be can comfortably return to Briar Creek to attend the wedding. But Analise has an ulterior motive:

"...Three days until her wedding...She turned on the cold water and splashed her face, but the shock didn't take away the knowledge that had been creeping up on her over the last few days...that she'd come on this trip to avoid dealing with the reality of her marriage to Lucas. Somewhere in her convoluted thinking must have lurked the absurd notion that, if she did something really good, something really right, like proving Lucas's father's innocence and making it possible for his parents to come to the wedding, they wouldn't have to have a wedding..."

A Gift for the Groom was a disappointment. The Analise Brewster readers got to know in the first story through Lucas' eyes bears only a slight resemblance to the character in this story.

This Analise is more reserved. The outlandish stunts she was noted for in Briar Creek would have easily transformed Nick and Analise's tepid trek for the truth into a rollicking road story through several states. There are flashes and possibilities, but not much more. Instead, the author concentrates on developing Nick's character to the detriment of Analise's.

As the series goes, A Bride in Waiting is the better of the two books. Lucas and Sara's story is more interesting. Their characters are better defined. The reader can relate to the tension between the characters and the moral dilemma they face. Most of the juicy, newsy portions of both stories are in the first book. The second book merely rehashes that information with one or two notable exceptions. As a result, the necessary plot elements of A Gift for the Groom could easily have been incorporated into one book.

--Gwen Osborne

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