Cinderella Bride by Monica McLean
(Silhouette Intimate Moments 852, $4.25, G)
ISBN 0-373-07852-8
It is truly a pleasure to recommend Monica McLean's first book with Silhouette Intimate Moments. If Cinderella Bride is any indication of her future work, then I predict she will quickly vault to the top to join our other favorite authors.

Carter King is a man from the ghetto. His father was a drug addict and his brothers were dealers. Escaping from this, he became the archetype of a self-made man. A bank president, respected member of the community he married into high society. When his wife discovered his origins, she dumped him, not wanting to taint her family's bloodlines.

Still stinging from this rejection, we meet Carter years later when he is going through the equivalent of a mid life crisis. He wants children, and some reason to go home at night. But he does not want to risk falling in love and granting any new wife the power to hurt him. (I know, at this point you are thinking: I've read this plot line before…but wait.)

Carter hires a Private Investigator to help him find a Cinderella Bride. Like any other feasibility analysis he has standards that must be met. His new bride must:

"Enjoy Children
Understand poverty and what it takes to rise above it
Can be counted on, trusted not to manipulate
Needs what I have to offer
Plain-Jane looks"

His study reveals that Marly Alcott meets all these requirements.

Marly heads a day care center for the economically disadvantaged, but it is teetering financially. About a month away from closing down, Marly is becoming more and more frantic.

Carter sails into her life offering her $250,000 to keep her day care center open if she will be his wife. As socially adept as Carter is, he lacks a lot of finesse in his proposal. Marly turns him down flat. She turns him down again. Carter withdraws to nurse his wounded ego, fixated on the loss of his chance at happiness. It has come down to Marly or no one and bear in mind he is not in love with her.

This was a weakness in the plot for me. I was just not persuaded from a purist point of view that Marly was the only woman in the known universe who met these standards. In fact, I have several friends who could have applied.

Very early in the book, Marly is forced to accept Carter's offer because she witnesses the murder of one of her student's parents and she is afraid of the killer. To tell you any more would erode the impact of the book. Suffice it to say that McLean is an incredibly creative writer and the plot has many unexpected twists.

This author uses the technique of foreshadowing to create the persona of Marly. Rarely have I seen it so effectively done. As the book moves beyond what I perceive as a minor flaw in the plot, it gets better and better. Apart from a few instances in dialogue where the author is a tad melodramatic, it moves swiftly to a remarkable conclusion. Remarkable because after closing the book, I swear I could hear the author's faint chuckle as I realized what she had done. This book showcases the author's keen sense of humor – from the title, through crisp and snappy dialogue to the ending.

If you are able to suspend disbelief where I couldn't quite, then this book could even be a keeper for you. At any rate, it is certainly worth a try.

--Thea Davis

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