Tuesday's Knight

Lizzie’s Last-Chance Fiancé
by Julie Kistler
(Harl. American #782, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16782-2
“Anything can happen at a Bellamy wedding.”

That’s the tag line for Harlequin American Romance’s new series, “The Wedding Party.” The series begins with Lizzie’s Last-Chance Fiancé and the marriage of Caroline Lambert Knox and Eric Bellamy.

Perhaps anything can happen at a Bellamy wedding because they’re so darn many folks there. Or, maybe it’s because the patriarch of the Bellamy clan is a serial spouse.

William “Budge” Bellamy, a.k.a. “The Pretzel King,” has been to the altar five times -- twice with his first wife, Viv. His current wife and former secretary, Rhonda, is the same age as his stepdaughter and his daughter-in-law to be. But, I digress...

Lizzie’s Last-Chance Fiancé is the story of Elizabeth Rose Muldoon, a hapless entrepreneur who has assembled an eclectic assortment of troubled employees she is determined to fix: a receptionist who can’t say the name of the business correctly; an accountant who is a reformed embezzler; a narcoleptic security guard. Lizzie tends to collect strays. She also has a hard time saying “No.”

Lizzie's inability to recognize offers she really should refuse lands her a spot as one of Caroline Lambert Knox’s bridesmaids. She’s in the unenviable position of wearing an “unflattering dress”: “pink-on-pink taffeta, littered with tiny embroidered swans” and a “butt bow.” So our heroine is standing up in the wedding of a woman she dislikes to a man she has had a crush on since college.

Just when she thinks things couldn’t get any worse, Lizzie learns her partner has fabricated a fiancé for her. And guess who’s got to produce said fiancé at the wedding in order to placate her major investors who just happen to be the parents of the bride and groom? What’s a girl who can’t say “no” to do?

After a chance incongruous meeting on the roadside with Eric’s stepbrother, Joe Bellamy, Lizzie finds herself with not one, but three suitors. Big and little misunderstandings abound. But despite them, (or perhaps because of them) Joe and Lizzie eventually find each other.

It’s not easy introducing a series. Julie Kistler had to create a credible relationship between Lizzie and Joe, while introducing the Bellamy and Lambert clans to set up the rest of the series. (RSVP. . .Baby by Pamela Browning and Assignment: Groom! by Jacqueline Diamond are next.)

Lizzie’s Last-Chance Fiancé reminded me of the screwball comedies of the 1930s. It’s got the chaos and the zany characters, for sure. Missing in what Lizzie called a “bizarre waxworks wedding” is a pratfall into a cake. What’s lacking is the order in the midst of chaos those stories conveyed.

Lizzie’s Last-Chance Fiancé is just plain chaotic. There are so many characters, I found myself still referring to the family tree in the story. The relationship between Joe and Lizzie was wonderful and probably would have worked better on a much smaller stage, and with fewer players.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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