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Private Pleasures

Ready-made Bride
by Janelle Denison
(Harl. Romance #3531, $3.50, PG) ISBN: 0-373-03531-4
Andrew Fielding is Megan Sanders' biggest fan. It's been almost two years since he read the first book in her popular children's series, "Andy's Adventures." Andrew enjoyed the stories and liked to pretend the stories were about him. He wrote a fan letter that launched an 18-month flurry of letters between the two. Their correspondence blossomed into a mutually satisfying relationship between the motherless Andrew and the childless Megan.

Andrew issues an invitation for Megan to visit for his eighth birthday which she readily accepts. Andrew is overjoyed. His father, Kane, is not.

Kane Fielding, is a reclusive widower who lives with Andrew in a small town which bears his in-law's name about two hours away from Megan's home in Seattle. He is a gruff man who lives quietly among the townsfolks' shadowy perceptions of him and his own demons. When Megan arrives on his doorstep, his world goes into retrograde.

Megan grew up in a series of foster homes after her parents died. Just when she finally thought she'd found stability, her marriage disintegrated after her upwardly mobile husband decided that children didn't fit into his lifestyle. Megan made the transition from legal secretary to children's author, in part, to ease the longing for children of her own.

Megan and Andrew have developed a kinship based on mutual need. She has other reasons for her attraction to the gorgeous, moody and complex Kane. She suspects that beneath his gruff exterior are several more gruff exteriors. Kane is dogged by rumors and suspicion from the people in town and an ongoing feud with his former in-laws. He also harbors a secret he believes makes him unworthy of Megan's love. Undaunted, she methodically strips away the rough layers away to get to the real man she is sure lurks within.

Ready Made Bride is about a lot of things: taking chances, second chances, trust, sharing and lies and secrets. Janelle Denison does an admirable job of drawing the contrasts and the tension between the two main characters. Kane and Megan come together initially because of their concern for Andrew, but the author highlights the individual moment each recognizes an attraction that outdistances their love for him. I also enjoyed the secondary relationships between the Fieldings and their neighbors and the author's use of humor.

Kane has a powerful secret that is an important element of this book. It defines who Megan and Kane are and can become together. Denison has developed this element of her story and her characters' responses very well. However, the author was sabotaged by the on-cover marketing of the book. Her meticulous plotting was spoiled for me by testimonials placed prominently at the beginning of the book. So, while you can judge a book by its cover, don't read that cover until after you've read Ready Made Bride.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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