Prince Charming's Return
by Myrna Mackenzie
(Silh Romance #1361, $ 3.99, G) ISBN 0-373-19361-0
**
Despite its title, Prince Charming's Return is more akin to heavy-handed allegory than a winsome fairytale. The discovery of a secret child and rekindling of an attraction that never died might have succeeded if the characters were more fully developed. Instead, Myrna Mackenzie relies too heavily on a tried-and-true plot and a fail-safe ending.

Opposites attract. Gray Alexander is the son of a wealthy father, a big fish in a small pond, the town of Misunderstood. Cassandra Pratt is the daughter of the town ne'er-do-well, despised by the good townsfolk due to her parentage. When Gray is attending a nearby college and Cass is a senior in high school, the two enjoy one frolicking day and passionate night.

Getting to know each other, confessing their innermost thoughts, Cass learns from Gray his belief that there is no such thing as true love. Two months later, Cass discovers she bears the unplanned results of their intimacy. Caught in a compromising situation and expelled from school, she flees the town at the same time as her friend, Jake Walker. Local gossips make the "logical" connection, assuming Cassie Pratt left to have Jake Walker's baby.

Eleven years later, Gray pulls into Cass's driveway. She is now living in Michigan cherry-orchard country with her ten year-old son, Rob, about seventy-five miles from the town that threw her out. Cass owns a small lawn-products store. Gray continues to live in Misunderstood, a successful real estate developer in partnership with his father. He is the town's golden boy, currently in a mayoral contest.

Gray has discovered Rob is his son, not Jake's, and he wants to stake his claim. Cass knows she has hidden the boy's existence from him, with possible adverse consequences, but continues to hope to shield her son from any connection with Gray's family, specifically his father. Now Cass must somehow allow Gray into her child's life while continuing to protect Rob and helping him understand why she never told him about Gray.

Unfortunately, in resolving their feelings about each other and moving on, the characters repeat and repeat and repeat their feelings ad nauseam. Little seems to have changed other than their having had eleven years to stand up to a now much older, and physically weaker, Hugh Alexander.

Is anyone really as good, as altruistic as Cass? Why does Gray never wake up to stand up to his father, rather than expecting Cass to go recover her "self-respect" by facing down the old man? He is a caring, sensitive human being, but being the perfect son never is put on the back burner. The hero and heroine plod along repeating over and over their misgivings, mistakes and misunderstandings. In the end, love conquers all. No big obstacle, just the passage of eleven years, a chance for these characters to grow up and stand up to Hugh Alexander, a man who is now much older and weaker.

Myrna Mackenzie also wrote about Jake Walker and Tess in The Scandalous Return of Jake Walker (Silh. Romance # 1256). It is possible that a reading of that book would help add flesh and bones to the characters in Prince Charming's Return. As it is, the characters in this book are two-dimensional, leaving the reader unaffected, uncaring and uninvolved. If one were able to monitor books with an electrocardiograph, the tracing on Prince Charming's Return would be flat.

--Sue Klock


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