A Body to Die For

Caught Under the Mistletoe

Dodging Cupid's Arrow!

Not in My Bed!

Once a Hero by Kate Hoffman
(Harl Tempt. #758, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25858-5
Once a Hero is the first of two stories set in the year 2000. The second, due next month, is Always a Hero. (HT 762) If Kate Hoffman's version of the early days of the next century is a worst case scenario, all we have to do is stay out of elevators and leave our computers off for a few days . . . something about too many power surges and sporadic power outages.

On Christmas Day, Maggie Kelly accepted Colin Spencer's proposal. Now, on New Year's Eve, they're going to make the announcement at a swanky party hosted by Colin's social register family. All the best people, the hoity-toity, are in attendance, and Armani is the preferred mode of dress.

Maggie, whose mother was on the marriage-go-round too many times, has vowed to be smarter when she chooses a husband. She's decided that Colin is perfect marriage material; he fits all of her criteria. She knows that what she feels for Colin isn't fireworks and roses, but she doesn't want any of that. Passion did her mother in time and again, so Maggie's being smarter.

As part of the evening's entertainment, the Spencers have hired a fortuneteller. Maggie is reluctant to have her fortune told, but her good friend Isabelle convinces her that it's worth a try. Maggie is told that she has the mark of the millennium on her palm. The tiny lines, which form a star, indicate that Maggie will find her greatest love, her destiny at midnight of the millennium.

Luke Fitzpatrick, Maggie's best friend from childhood, hasn't seen her much in the last two years. His job as a foreign correspondent keeps him in war zones. He arrives to find that Maggie is going to marry Colin Spencer. When midnight comes and goes and Colin is nowhere to be found, Luke, her rescuer and oftentimes hero, comforts her. A videotape shows that Colin left willingly with Isabelle. That bit of evidence throws the kidnapping/coercion theory out the window, making it seem as though Maggie has well and truly been dumped.

We don't hear much from Colin and Isabelle for the rest of the story, but their tale will be told in Always a Hero. Maggie appears to have been lucky to escape from Mrs. Spencer, the society snob. I've never understood the appeal of making rich people seem patronizing and imperious or consumed with appearances and the good opinion of others at all cost. Itís hard to believe that buffoons would be able to accumulate such wealth and keep their social standing.

Maggie and Luke follow a familiar, well-traveled and tired plot road for quite a while. She doesn't want to ruin their friendship with sex. Her mantra is that she'll be different from her mother. Luke is just as predictable. He's finally attained success in his chosen career. He travels all over the world and knows that he'll be a terrible husband and dad. Ergo, he won't even consider becoming serious about Maggie. She deserves better.

Both of them behave foolishly until it's almost impossible to believe that they're mature enough to have a lasting relationship. And the ending is simplistic, with the compromise being so obvious that it could have a target drawn on it.

Maggie and Luke never seemed real. They never stepped off the pages and into my life. I'm curious to find out what will happen with Colin and Isabelle. Perhaps their relationship will have the magic that was lacking in Maggie and Luke's.

--Linda Mowery

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