Baby Starts the Wedding March
by Amy Frazier
(Silh. Special Ed. #1188, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24188-7
****
Get past this ridiculous title and you're going to find a treat. Best friends for twenty-three of their twenty-eight years, Julia Richardson asks Dallas Parker to go with her to their hometown of Cannons Crossing, Georgia. She needs his strength and unconditional support when she tells her pillar-of-the-community parents that she's jobless and pregnant . . . by a married man.

Julia has been living in Boston, while Dallas has been achieving national fame as a rodeo star. Their friendship has remained strong, although their backgrounds are disparate. Julia's parents, particularly her father, have always considered Dallas beneath them. The Richardsons and the town have never let Dallas forget that he's a bastard. For the past ten years, Dallas has been excelling on the rodeo circuit and has been three-time National Champion. His career is essentially over, though; he's hurt and worn out.

When Dallas suggests that Julia's troubles will be over if she marries him, it sounds like a good idea. These two are best friends. What neither takes into account is how their friendship will change when passion rears its head. Suddenly shy and afraid to be honest with each other, their relationship is abruptly taking a downward spiral. While the back blurb hints that Julia will question Dallas' proposal and wonder if the baby is the sole reason, I disagree. I kept sensing that Julia was wondering if Dallas married her only because of friendship. She was concerned that Dallas might not feel anything deeper. Ah, young insecurities!

Although he ultimately comes around, Julia's father is a major pain in the rear. Straight out of Tennessee Williams' plays, Big Daddy Richardson is blustery, morally superior which makes him a hypocrite and always has to have the last word. Thank goodness Julia stands up to him. Dallas, however, can't afford to alienate his father-in-law any more than he already has. Big Daddy has hired him to work as a "flunky" at his lumber yard. Dallas knows that he's going to be tested every day. I had to grit my teeth occasionally and use extreme forbearance in not reacting to Big Daddy. Writing this good, writing that actually makes me angry with a character, is vicarious reading at its best.

Several interesting subplots are attention-grabbing. One is Dallas' quest to find his natural father. This has a warm, gentle resolution whose final message is the subtle theme of the book. You don't have to be perfect to be loved. Another subplot is Dallas and the lumberyard. How he copes with Big Daddy and triumphs in the end is another of this book's many feel-good moments.

Julia and Dallas undergo the normal rite of passage that all newlyweds experience. Their rock solid friendship allows them ultimately to flourish. Their triumph is ours, too. Watching them succeed makes for a warm, comfortable, enjoyable read.

--Linda Mowery


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