The Bride's Best Man
by Laura Phillips
(Zebra Bouquet #54, 3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6650-3
Laura Phillips, according to my brief research, hasn't written a book in quite a while. After finishing The Bride's Best Man, there was a great big grin on my face and a desire to read more of this talented author's writing. This is a first rate reading experience.

Jack Rathert and Marcy Winters have been best friends since third grade, a friendship centered around common interests, even to sharing a love of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Jack still wears Marcy's good luck gift of her Girl Scout pin on his fishing hat. When Marcy becomes engaged, she immediately asks Jack to be her ‘maid of honor'. He's bemused by her request, but quickly regains his sense of humor. "I'm OK with the honor part and with whatever else you need me to do, keep track of the ring or whatever. Just don't expect me to wear a dress."

Jack, who's always known that marriage isn't for him...(okay, he's not perfect. But what man is?), suddenly realizes that Marcy is slipping away from him. He hears her reassurances that their friendship won't change after her marriage, but he knows better. Suddenly he realizes what a Great Big Fool he's been. Marcy's fiancé may have "fine lineage, a big expense account and even bigger ambitions," but he's not the one for Marcy. Jack is! Jack needs to overcome his cynicism and disillusionment about marriage. It's either that or lose Marcy.

The Bride's Best Man is a ‘boy next door' romance, but one with a twist that made it all the more enjoyable. These lovers don't deny their attraction, don't try to sweep it under the rug, and don't really run from it. How delightful to read a romance where the people actually like each other and spend the majority of the book acknowledging that they love and need each other. With some books, things don't get resolved until the last chapter, and that's all the satisfaction we're given. Ms. Phillips has given us, after a short interlude with the soon-to-be-jilted fiancé, the majority of the book to enjoy Jack and Marcy's love story. That concentration on the characters intensified my enjoyment, and for that, I'm grateful.

In addition to the humor, there are moments of gentle poignancy. At one point in the story, Marcy tells Jack that he's her best friend. What followed made me tingle.

"And you're simply the best." The combined effect of those words and that burning stare was devastating. Anything that potent ought to be bottled with a tamperproof cap and a warning label.

Throughout their courtship, their innate good humor surfaces, a trait which frequently set me off into bouts of laughter. When Jack prepares dinner for Marcy, he sets the table with paper plates, chopsticks and the candlesticks from the fireplace mantle. "Are we celebrating or expecting a power outage?" When he teases her about his food-gathering prowess, I could see her smirking as she looked at the containers from the restaurant.

Some authors have the ability to make the characters come alive. I suspect that they must imbue the ink with magic. How lucky for us that writers like Ms. Phillips are able to breathe life into characters. Never having had the knack for being able to analyze the secret ingredient that makes some characters come alive and others remain ink on paper, I just know that I had a magical time during the hours I lived vicariously with Jack and Marcy.

The Bride's Best Man is refreshing in its honest approach, with a witty plot and carefree dialog and is a category romance that I can wholeheartedly recommend . . . with pleasure.

--Linda Mowery

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