The Cowboy & the Shotgun Bride

Duets 2

A Real-Live Sheikh

Assignment: Groom!
By Jacqueline Diamond
(Harl. American #791, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16791-1
Social secretary Anne Crumm has a lousy assignment in Assignment: Groom. She's overseeing the details of the wedding of her employer's daughter. The problem is, Caroline Lambert Knox is marrying Eric Bellamy -- the same Eric Bellamy that Anne had an affair with five years ago and left in anger. They'd been journalists at a magazine together; when Anne's name was dropped from the byline of a joint story, she quit -- and suspected Eric of engineering it by seducing her. Now here she is, watching the happy couple, and feeling her own heart break all over again.

Only -- the couple isn't so happy. They bicker and argue, stomp and huff (well, it's mostly Caroline doing the stomping and huffing) and it seems that the bride-to-be has taken it into her head that every woman at the wedding is after Eric. Except good old Anne, her mother's secretary. Anne can be trusted. Who better to stick close to Eric and keep an eye on him?

Eric isn't immune to Anne. He's about to marry his old college girlfriend, mostly because she manipulated him into it and he feels sorry for her, and who comes along at the eleventh hour but the one woman he had real feelings for, the one woman who made him feel alive -- the one woman who dumped him flat. The zing is still there. He's engaged to Caroline, but he really wants Anne. And he's getting married in less than 48 hours. To the wrong woman.

This book could have taken some seriously wrong turns in the hands of a less-experienced author. But Jacqueline Diamond is a veteran, and smart she was to get the old conflict out of the way by having the two leads act like adults and talk. Eric and Anne clear up their history early on, leaving them free to figure out how to extricate themselves from this mess. Along the way, the book is sprinkled with plenty of snappy, funny dialogue. Eric thinks Anne is smart and witty, and by page thirty, we think it too. Their interaction is warm and genuine. This is a couple that will stick.

The secondary characters tend to be a bit on the cardboard side, especially Caroline in her turn as a spoiled princess who's never been told "no". Eric's family is muddled at best -- there are so many half-brothers and stepsisters running around that it was hard to keep the relationships straight. (There's a chart in the front.) No doubt these folks have their own stories in this series. But overall, they make Eric and Anne look even more normal and down-to-earth.

Assignment: Groom is a cheerfully zany wedding romance that's upbeat, refreshing, and will tickle your funnybone. Romance reader can hardly wish for more than that!

--Cathy Sova

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