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Dream Groom by Susan Mallery
(Silh. Sp. Edition #1244 $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24244-1
*****
All right, I admit it I was a snob. For years I have looked down on category romances, refusing to believe that they could be as enjoyable a read as a full-length historical or contemporary romance. But, after reading Susan Mallery's Dream Groom, the second novel in her "Brides of Bradley House Series," that is all a thing of the past.

Impressively, in just 251 pages, with well-developed characters and a smartly written if unoriginal plot, Mallery has managed to create a novel full of self-discovery and love, two elements lacking in many historical romances these days.

Ryan Lawford knows that he is in over his head. Despite his powerfully athletic body, handsome face and incredible business acumen, Ryan is absolutely at his wits' end, after only a week caring for his newly orphaned two-and-a-half year-old niece, Sasha. What had his brother and sister-in-law been thinking when they chose him as Sasha's guardian in their will? What does a bachelor who spends more time working than anything else, know about raising a child he has never seen until the day before the funeral.

Ryan considers Cassie Bradley's arrival on his doorstep with a bag full of groceries and an offer to care for Sasha as nothing short of a miracle. He immediately and happily passes on all responsibility for Sasha's care to Cassie.

For all her good intentions and nine-year relationship, Cassie cannot keep herself from daydreaming about her oh-so-eligible-and-handsome boss. However, Cassie is convinced that even if she could get Ryan to notice her, he wouldn't be interested in her because she is the very antithesis of glamour. She knows that a short, verging on plump, happier in the kitchen than in a business suit Cassie is definitely not Ryan's style.

Mallery does a wonderful job developing the friendship and eventual romance between Ryan and Cassie. She also treats the issues of adoption, death and the resulting insecurity and guilt of the two with a thorough adeptness that adds countless layers to Ryan and Cassie's growing attraction and love. It is the ability of the two main characters to help each other cope with their feelings that makes this book a pleasure to read.

The secondary characters are also well done, especially Sasha. It is quite refreshing to have an author include a child whose speech and actions are those of a child rather than a miniature adult.

All and all, I truly enjoyed Dream Groom, but I have just one complaint it needs to be longer!

--Walaika Haskins


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