Unexpected Bride
by Lisa Childs
(Harl. Am. Rom #1198, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-75202-4
***
Abby Hamilton grew up in a broken home with drunks for parents. She fell into a lifelong friendship with two sisters and another girl and the four were inseparable as youngsters. But Abby could never really keep trouble from following her and one night, she was accused of running over the statue of the town's founder. She left town and swore not to return. But now, one of her best friends is getting married and Abby senses trouble brewing. Molly McClintock doesn't seem to be as happy as she should be the day before marrying the man of her dreams, a doctor with a young son. Abby is determined to make sure that Molly knows her mind before saying "I do."

Clinton McClintock has always been attracted to Abby and as a teenager several years older than her, he always used disapproval to show he cared. Abby, of course, thought he just disapproved of her. Abby was at their house all the time with his sisters and he always knew she was the bad influence on them, even taking them to get tattoos one night. He wasn't surprised when she wrecked her car and it didn't help that the McClintock's had just lost their beloved father the same week. He was glad to see her go.

Over the years, Clinton's mother and sisters had kept in touch with Abby, but he didn't want to know anything about her. He is extremely surprised when she shows up for the wedding, all grown up and beautiful with a lovely little four-year-old girl in tow. She is not married. But she is successful, having started her own temporary employment agency that now has two branches in two different cities. Abby is surprised to see Clinton too. She senses the attraction she has always hidden from everyone and notices what a responsible man he has become. He has taken over the family business and assumed the roles in the community that his father had always taken.

The story follows these two as they muddle their way to figuring out their futures. Molly leaves her groom at the altar, making Abby promise to stay until she can figure things out. That means Abby cannot leave as she had planned. She is forced to stay and confront the past. She and Clinton are pushed together often and find they are attracted, even while they realize the past has thrown some major issues in their paths.

This is the first story about Cloverville, Michigan and its residents. Many are introduced and it appears that Molly and the other girls, Brenna and Colleen, all have stories in their futures. There is some of the small town wonder often seen in category romances and of course, there is the moral that we donít always remember the past the way it really was.

But overall, this is a fun story. Clinton and Abby are good for each other even though they go towards their happy ending kicking and fussing. The ending is a bit abrupt and too easily resolved, but Unexpected Bride is an enjoyable reading experience and a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon.

--Shirley Lyons


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