The MacGregor Brides by Nora Roberts
(Silhouette, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-48350-3
****
Someday Nora Roberts' keyboard will be bronzed and enshrined in some Hall of Fame of Romance Writers. She's perhaps the only author I can think of who could re-write the Yellow Pages and make it a bestseller, with people lining up to buy a copy. For sheer entertainment value, it's hard to top her books.

So even though The MacGregor Brides is another "three women finding love" set of stories, it's easy to overlook the fact. It's still a fun read.

The three women in question are the MacGregor cousins: Julia, Gwen, and Laura. They share a house in Boston and are quite happily single, a fact that perturbs the family patriarch to no end. Grandfather Daniel MacGregor won't rest easy until his sweet chickadees are safely wed, and hopefully producing the next generation of MacGregors.

Laura, the oldest, is first. She's a lawyer like her parents, devoted to her career and not interested in rocking the boat. Daniel sends security expert Royce Cameron to install a top-level security system in the girls' house, hoping that Royce and Laura will strike sparks. Which they do. She nearly disembowels him when he breaks into her house to look around. Royce, a former cop, is impressed, and soon Laura is just as impressed with him.

Next up is Gwen, a surgical resident in a Boston hospital. Daniel has a little fun here. He tosses in Branson Maguire, mystery novelist, in hopes that Bran can get the stiff-necked Gwen to lighten up a little and enjoy her life a bit. Trouble is, Gwen's never, er, lightened up with anybody, a fact which delights Bran no end. Soon Gwen is curious as to what she's been missing, and Bran is only too happy to help her find out.

Finally there's Julia, whom I found to be the most delightful character in the whole book. Julia buys houses, redecorates them, and sells them for a fat profit. This time, she's bought herself a house that will be her very own. If she can force herself to work with Cullum Murdoch, the contractor who'll be overseeing the renovations. Julia was supposed to be working with Cullum's father, but Dad and Daniel just happen to be buddies, see… When Dad Murdoch becomes mysteriously "ill", Cullum steps in. I love a heroine with a streak of smartass in her, and Julia had it in spades. Cullum is no slouch, either, and this was definitely the strongest pairing in the book.

Overall, this trio of stories is a light, effortless read. Whether you're a Roberts fan or not, you've got to admire her unerring ability to ferret out what readers like and provide it. The stories zip along, and the sex, thought limited, is plenty hot.

This review comes with a couple of caveats, though. I can't help wondering when the mother lode of "three women" stories will play itself out. Maybe never. But the last three Roberts efforts I've read have been structured pretty similarly to this, so I can't say this is a new plan of action.

It was also hard to identify with this family of hyper-achievers. Daniel is a mega-zillionaire. Julia's dad is a former President of the United States. Laura's father is a former Attorney General. The mothers are just as successful. Cullum and Royce seem to be the only "regular guys" in the book; even Bran writes bestsellers.

These quibbles aside, The MacGregor Brides is pure entertainment. Nora Roberts' legions of fans won't be disappointed. And The MacGregor Grooms is promised for next year, so if you enjoy this book, there's more on the horizon.

--Cathy Sova


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