Have Gown, Need Groom
by Rita Herron
(Harl. American #859, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16859-4
Have Gown, Need Groom is very much like a puzzle whose pieces don't quite fit, and no amount of trying is going to force those uneven individual pieces into a picture that makes sense.

On the eve of her wedding to a psychiatrist, Dr. Hannah Hartwell succumbs to her curiosity and wears an antique ring to bed, a ring which supposedly allows the wearer to dream of the man she's meant to marry. Hannah has torrid, erotic dreams, all right, and the star is not her fiancÚ, but a stranger, a hunk with an interesting birthmark on his rear.

So Hannah does what any woman who lives in Romance Land would do. She calls off the wedding after the fiancÚ flunks the sizzling kiss test. But does she do it before everybody's at the church, expecting a wedding? Noooooo, she calls it off right before she's supposed to walk down the aisle. This is really out of character for straight arrow Hannah, who's always been humiliated at her family's antics. Her dad is known far and wide for his weird car ads featuring Wacky Wiley's Cars.

After the fiasco, Hannah decides to go to the hospital and finds herself treating one of her dad's salesmen. Jake Tippins is really an undercover cop whose job involves breaking up a car theft ring, but he's posing as a car salesman for Hannah's dad. Jake has reason to believe that Hannah and her father are involved. Well, Jake's just stopped a thief from stealing a car at Wacky Wiley's car dealership and for his trouble, is shot in the rear. As Hannah treats him, she notices a familiar birthmark on his rear. It's the same birthmark that was featured in her dreams the night before.

So Hannah does what every competent doctor does. She faints. From that point on I wondered if Hannah had interned with Dr. Pepper. The fact that she's a doctor seems incidental and appears to be a profession chosen at random. This woman is neither bright nor intuitive. In one scene she's talking to her ex-fiancÚ's parents, both doctors. She uses Mr. and Mrs., rather than addressing them as Drs. So and So. I found that odd.

She also wonders if she's pre-menopausal because her hormones are so out of whack, thanks to Jake. Even I, ignorant in medical matters, wouldn't suspect menopause of someone in her twenties. If all of this medical malapropism is supposed to be funny, then it went way over my head.

Hannah and Jake have a kind of relationship that I hate to see in romances, the dreaded Daisy relationship. I want him, I want him not - I like him, I like him not - I want her, No, I'll avoid her. This yo-yo approach becomes tedious.

Overshadowing the relationship is Jake's belief that Hannah and her dad are involved in the car theft ring. Jake, because he's dating Hannah, is at family outings. He admits that he admires the Hartwells, but his job always comes first. Add to the fact that he's a dedicated loner who refuses to become emotionally involved, and suddenly we're on the Been There, Done That page. And it's really tough to admire a man who'll romance a woman while all the while he's thinking that she's a criminal.

Yes, devout romance readers know that true love can overcome all odds. However, I do require minimal proof that true love is occurring, and that proof is noticeably absent in Have Gown, Need Groom. More show and less tell would have improved this plot. If I'd seen a developing relationship, I'd have been able to overlook the other weaknesses.

--Linda Mowery

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