Have Gown, Need Groom

Marry Me, Maddie by Rita Herron
(Lovespell, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52433-3
Public Service Announcement: Sometimes a reviewer can suspend personal taste in order to be objective, but it doesn’t work with humor. You either find something funny or you don’t. Marry Me, Maddie isn’t my kind of humor and I can only try not to let that color the review too much because it might easily be yours. It’s the best I can do. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Maddie Summers has dated Jeff Oglethorpe for four years and still no commitment. To force his hand, she tricks him into appearing on a daytime talk show. The topic? “Marry Me or Move On.” Jeff declines to pop the question, so Maddie dumps the conservative bank president and decides to go for the gusto.

Maddie’s older brothers, Lance and Reid, are horrified. Together with their buddy, Chase, The Terrible Three (they ran wild together as teenagers and took a blood oath to be “bachelors forever”) are very, very protective of Maddie.

Maddie’s always had a crush on Chase, but since she knows he thinks of her as a little sister she’s never acted on it. Chase secretly reciprocates but (a) he’s a “bachelor forever,” (b) Maddie’s brothers are his buddies, (c) he’s not good enough for her, and (d) she’s like his little sister. But he can’t help being jealous so he goes along with it as they bumble around after her, sabotaging her efforts to find excitement, get lucky and generally have a life after Jeff.

To make them even crazier, frivolous Maddie (who wants to be an interior decorator), forces her brothers (who are contractors) and Chase (who’s an architect) to let her decorate the model homes of their new real estate development. They’re terrified because these homes are crucial to their business.

Overall, I found the story a little uneven and more than a little predictable, but there are some nice moments. Maddie’s take on Chase, early in the book, is one:

“He’d been watching patiently…the silent brooding outsider who never seemed to say much…hovering on the periphery of their lives as if he had no other place to go, as if no once else wanted him. But her family had opened its door and he’d been leaning in the middle of the doorjamb ever since.”

Isn’t that lovely? Unfortunately, we also trip over the odd klinker like “she forked up a spoonful.”

Maddie is by far the most complete character and we get a lot of our insight into her from Chase. At first I bought her as a flake. Her past ambitions have included wanting to be a soap opera star, so it’s easy to doubt that she knows what she’s doing. As well, in spite of her claims to be a trained business woman, she orders a company van before she’s got the funds to pay for it and is ticked at having to use her one and only asset - her mother’s heirloom pendant - as collateral for the loan. Who expects to get a business loan with zero collateral?

Maddie doesn’t exactly change in the book but, just as good, we discover that she’s got a lot more substance as Chase develops confidence in her abilities and professionalism. It’s the best contribution Chase makes to the story.

Because he, unfortunately, gets bogged down in knuckle-dragger land early and pretty much stays there. No matter how much her wants her, he can’t have Maddie because (a) he’s a “bachelor forever,” (b) etc. etc. Chase trots out these tired excuses, alone or in combination, with unvarying monotony. I liked him, but it was a very deep rut and none of us could get out.

He also mentally inventories Maddie’s body a lot. While it’s good that he’s attracted to her, it didn’t boost Chase up the food chain.

And there’s an irrational subplot about a possible indiscretion by Maddie's late father. It had nothing to do with the romance and it felt like filler.

All this may be immaterial if you like the humor, so maybe do this. Pick the book up and leaf through it. If you find yourself chuckling, go for it. If not, live to laugh another day.

--Judi McKee

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