has also reviewed:

The Million Dollar Marriage

Her Own Prince Charming
by Eva Rutland
(Harl. Romance #3550, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-03550-0
Once upon a time there was a Wyoming ranch girl named Paula Grant who wished upon the stars and had big dreams.

"Paula had dreamed of being a veterinarian for as long as she could remember. She and Toby, the foreman's son, planned to marry and buy a spread of their own. He would train racehorses, and she would be a veterinarian. That dream had lasted through two years of college."

Toby fell in love with someone else and became an accountant. Paula was devastated. Her studies suffered momentarily. She recovered enough to graduate on time, but without the veterinary school scholarship she coveted. Her dream was further deferred when her father became ill.

Lew Grant, her uncle and godfather, had a solution. Paula left Wyoming for San Diego and a job as maid with the Ashford family. The job afforded her a salary, room and board and flexible hours to attend veterinary school in San Diego...all under the watchful eye of Uncle Lew, the Ashford family chauffeur.

When Angus Ashford died, the family fortunes suffered. Staff had to be cut. "Paula became the cook, washwoman and maid, All with very little increase in salary." As the story begins, the shallow Ashford sisters, Whitney and Rae are tittering about the impending arrival of Brad Vandercamp.

Brad is the unmarried heir to the Vandercamp fortune and the so-called "Prince of Polo." He is British and the family even has an ancestral castle.

To supplement her income, Paula often helps a local caterer who specializes in upscale society events. One night, as she is serving at a masquerade ball, she gets caught up in the music. Paula's behind-the-scenes movements captures Brad's attention. He asks her to dance, but she explains she's not a guest, but part of the waitstaff.

Undeterred, he hands her an extra mask. They dance. They kiss. And at the stroke of midnight when the guests unmask, she flees. While he doesn't get her name, she has left behind a broken necklace - a gift from her godfather.

The Ashford sisters don't recognize her. Brad searches for Paula. "Cinderella" references abound. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Her Own Prince is a tepid retelling of the Cinderella story that begins to rally during the second half of the novel. Both Paula and Brad learn a lot about "how the other half lives."

Their scenes together are quite good. It's not just a blue-collar/white-collar romance. The relationship between the two is very clear. It is fun to watch the development of Brad from two-dimensional "prince" to a sensitive man exploring his own depths for the first time. For her part, Paula has a strong work ethic and family values that keep her rooted.

Unfortunately, strong main characters and a third-quarter rally are not enough to garner a recommendation for Her Prince Charming. It's a weak three-hearter.

Eva Rutland is a prolific romance author who has written dozens of novels for Harlequin. Her Own Prince Charming is not her best effort. For an idea of what she really can do, I strongly recommend A Child's Christmas, Foreign Affair, or The Million Dollar Marriage.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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