Allie's Moon

Harper's Bride

Montana Born and Bred

A Taste of Heaven

The Bridal Veil by Alexis Harrington
(St. Martins, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN: 0-312-97954-1
Emily Cannon has come to Oregon as a mail-order bride. To widowed father Luke Becker's chagrin though, this isn't the package he ordered. Tall, prim Emily has taken the place of her petite, pretty sister Alyssa, who died tragically before she could fulfill her agreement. Still, Luke is desperate for someone to help him raise his out of control eleven year-old daughter, so he goes ahead with the marriage.

Young Rose is a hoyden, to put it mildly, but former etiquette teacher Emily thinks she has a fair chance of handling that problem. Then she encounters Cora, Luke's bitter mother-in-law. Seems Cora has set up the Becker household as a shrine to her dead daughter Belinda and will brook no intruders. Emily's every move is met with sarcasm, distrust and anger. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Cora is the main reason for Rose's behavior and the general discord of the household.

The plot of The Bridal Veil is nothing new; prim spinster tries to become mother and wife in the shadow of the perfect deceased wife. Cora's character is especially familiar. She could be any of a dozen nasty bitter old women. One just knows she's going to cook up trouble from the very beginning. Rose is the typical wounded child caught in the crossfire.

Harrington rises above the familiar ground however, using her skill to create a realistic couple that the reader can get behind, especially Emily.

Just when I was going to write her off as wimpy, Emily surprised me with her sass. After overhearing some unflattering gossip about herself in the general store, Emily proceeds to act as if nothing happened. Then, as she's leaving she lets go of a wonderful barb that is all the more satisfying for its genteel delivery. She then sticks to her guns and continues to help Rose, even with Cora's resistance, without ever sinking to her level. Her desire to be loved is touching, but she never wallows in it.

Luke has this same humanity about him. He is neither perfect in his defense of Emily, nor unbelievably ignorant of the problems of his household. As with Emily, it's tempting to dismiss Luke as a milquetoast for not giving the boot to Cora a long time ago. One has to realize, however, that he is loath to remove yet another loved one from his daughter's life. It's a realistic and believable quandary. The one sour note to Luke is his initial reaction to Cora's accusations against Emily. After three years of this woman's manipulation and bitterness, you'd think he'd know better than to take it at face value. Still, he is only human and he does recover quickly enough to be forgiven.

When the two of them get together, the reader is in for some enjoyment. The incident with the "rattlesnake" in Emily's bedroom was a perfect beginning spark to their relationship.

Although there are some plot devices that are obvious machinations, such as the sick lamb and the whole issue of Rose's paternity, as a whole, The Bridal Veil was a satisfying read. Harrington writes with a wonderfully homey and engaging style reminiscent of early LaVyrle Spencer. Spencer's fans that have missed good old-fashioned stories since her retirement will be happy to find this book.

--Anne Bulin

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