Briar Rose

The Gazebo

Lighthouse Cove


The Mother's Day Garden

The Wedding Dress
by Kimberly Cates
(HQN, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-77189-4
These days it seems that many romances put too much emphasis on the plot or the adventure or the conflict that provides the frame for the novel and too little on the romance itself.  The Wedding Dress by Kimberly Cates turns that trend on its ear and delivers a sweet, character-focused tale that leaves the reader breathing a happy little sigh of contentment.  

Movie star Emma McDaniel is given the chance of a lifetime when she is signed to play the role of plucky medieval heroine, Lady Aislinn.  In order to prepare for and fully immerse herself in the character, Emma travels to Scotland to an archealogical dig on the site of Lady Aislinn's castle home of Craigmorrigan.  While at the site, she will be in the keeping of Dr. Jared Butler, the site director, who will help her learn all she needs to know about portraying the Scottish heroine. 

For Emma, the role represents not only an escape from the tabloid hell that surrounds her, but also a chance to break away from the action-movie-star typecasting now limiting her career.  First, however, she must overcome Dr. Butler's preconceptions and obvious prejudices.  He's prepared to dislike her from the start, and only gradually is Emma able to prove that there's more to her personality and persona than publicity would suggest.   

There is much to like about The Wedding Dress.  The author has a smooth and fluid style of writing that sweeps the reader along and keeps the story moving.  Emma and Jared are introduced quickly, and Cates is smart about parceling out little tidbits of their backstories so that the reader is intrigued and always wanting just a little bit more.  There's an air of mystery that surrounds both, as the reader realizes instinctively that there's more to each than the other would suspect.  The sexual tension between the characters is believable from the beginning, and their gradual thawing toward one another is timed well.  By the story's end, I was willing to believe that Emma and Jared had found happiness with one another and would be able to continue to work through whatever obstacles came their way.  

Nevertheless, I did have a few quibbles which ultimately impacted my opinion of the story as a whole.  Primarily, I felt the book was too long, particularly in the middle.  At about the halfway point - during the whole "getting to know you section" - I started to become restless and a bit bored as I waited for something to happen.  Thankfully, just as I was beginning to become very antsy with the lack of forward momentum, the story took off again and redeemed itself.   Another item that pulled me from the story is the author's dependence on that most typical of romance novel cliches:  the secret, painful past.  There's a scene about three-fourths in during which the heroine reveals her secret, then the hero reveals his, then another character reveals his.  It was all a bit too much melodrama and horror and dysfunction for me, as each character seemed to be able to outdo the others with his or her sad tale of woe.   

Still...neither of these issues was significant enough to completely erode my satisfaction with the story.  The Wedding Dress is the third book in a series about the McDaniel family, following

Picket Fence and The Gazebo, which I've not read.  The Wedding Dress contains numerous references to persons and events introduced in the first two books, and while these did become a bit cumbersome and overwhelming at times, I was pleased enough with The Wedding Dress to be curious about the first two books and the fourth novel, yet to come.  Beyond that, this was my first romance novel by Kimberly Cates, and the sweetness and romance of the story and likeability of the characters ensures that it won't be my last.  

--Jennifer Bergin

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