The Bad Luck Wedding Cake

The Bad Luck Wedding Night

The Kissing Stars

My Long, Tall Texas Heartthrob

The Pink Magnolia Club

Sizzle All Day

The Wedding Raffle

The Wedding Raffle

The Wedding Ransom

Her Bodyguard by Geralyn Dawson
(HQN, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-373-77043-X
With Her Bodyguard, Geralyn Dawson begins a series dedicated to the second generation of her favorite McBrides, a Fort Worth family burdened with a very strong streak of bad luck. The streak is, in fact, a centuries-old curse. Or so a Celtic seer informs the three sisters whose childhood pranks (chronicled in earlier volumes such as the recently re-released The Bad Luck Wedding Dress) earned them the title of the McBride Menaces.

Now, on the verge of womanhood, they learn that they may be the ones to set the family free if each of them finds everlasting love and fulfills a personalized task. This novel tells the second daughter's part in breaking the spell. Although both references to the earlier novels and hints about what will follow appear, it definitely stands on its own (but I confess to wanting to read both forwards and backwards).

Chocolate-shop owner Mari McBride is trying hard to live down her childhood reputation. So it is not surprising that she wants little to do with the somewhat notorious Luke Garrett. A convicted outlaw, he has used the railroad shares he won in a high-stakes poker game to buy social stature - but not complete respectability - as a salon and brothel-owner in the frontier town's more questionable neighborhood. But when Mari decides to look for her sister, believed to have perished in the company of a roguish actor, who better to accompany her than the former gunslinger? Luke has his own reasons to go after the couple. He is nevertheless surprised to find he has been duped into becoming her bodyguard. Together, they set off on a road trip through the Texas badlands that puts them in very close quarters and provides them with sufficient danger to spice up their romance.

Predictable? Of course. But the heroine is spunky and inventive, the incidents outlandish and the tone funny enough to make Her Bodyguard a delightful read. For instance, when a dangerous gang kidnaps and threatens to rape Mari, she escapes armed only with a cactus plant that she puts to very effective use (let's just say she seriously impairs the man's instrument of torture).

Although Mari is more than capable of taking care of herself, they are a well-matched couple. Like her, Luke takes family responsibility seriously (even if his is not always as honorable and deserving as hers). And he too struggles with the ambivalent legacy of his bad reputation. As he succumbs to her charm, he is determined that she should know the truth about the man behind the notorious outlaw, but is frustrated time and again when she belittles his claims to hero material. Just when I got tired of his unsuccessful attempts, another conflict comes between them, changing the direction of the story and renewing my interest.

His Bodyguard has a number of anachronisms (did they really worry about "stress free rest" for pregnant women in the 1890s? did the Texas Rangers really assign undercover agents to investigate the collusion between lawmen and outlaws? ). And despite train robbers and painted ladies, the plot and the characters give this book a much too contemporary feel. I am not sure, however, that this really matters when what I'm after is a good laugh and some light entertainment. Kat the younger sister's story is scheduled to appear in December. If her experiences in this novel have forced her to become as resourceful and feisty as Mari, it should be another good read.

--Mary Ben

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