3, 2, 1... Married by Sharon Sala, Marie Ferrarella & Beverly Barton
(Silhouette, $5.99, PG to PG-13) ISBN 0-373-48385-6
****
Silhouette brought three first-rate storytellers together and gave them an interesting unifying premise for this one of many anthologies celebrating the beginning of a new century and a new millennium. The result is most enjoyable.

The premise is that the heroines of these three novellas (or those who have their best interests at heart) read an article in a woman’s magazine on how to be married by the millennium. And, using the hints provided, each woman finds true love.

The first hint is to go where the single men are. (Nobody said the advice was earthshakingly new.) Thus, in Sharon Sala’s contribution, “Miracle Bride,” Hallie O’Grady finds herself at a tourist ranch in Texas, thanks to her sisters. Although the oldest daughter and a successful author of children’s books, Hallie has always felt inferior to her tall, buxom, titian-haired -- and married -- sisters. She has never been able to appreciate her own elfin-beauty or her charming personality.

The owner of the tourist ranch, Jake Miracle, appreciates Hallie from the moment he hears her infectious laugh and gazes at her delightful face. The road to true love has a few bumps, some caused by Hallie’s insecurities, some by Jake’s reticence, and most by a she-wolf who has her own plans for Jake. But what we have hear is a story of two people who are clearly meant for each other discovering exactly why this is so.

The second hint is to discover where single dads take their children. Marie Ferrarella in "The Single Daddy Club" shows how this might work. K.C. Haley doesn’t have to look far. As her sister Rachel points out, the single men in the neighborhood congregate in the park right across the street from Rachel’s house. Since K.C. is staying with Rachel, nursing her sister while she recovers from a broken leg and taking care of her niece, Rachel thinks that K.C. should just mosey over to said park and take a look.

K.C. does just that and manages to become an angel of mercy when Bailey Quaid’s little dare devil decides to see if he can fly from the top of the sliding board. Bailey, divorced for 15 months, immediately sees that K.C. is pretty special. K.C., still recovering from being dumped by the man she loved, is more reluctant to get involved in another relationship. With a little help from big sister Rachel, K.C. and Bailey find happiness at the stroke of the New Year.

Beverly Barton was assigned the premise of using the personal ads and she gives it a neat twist. Marianne Bennett, known as Bennie, has been in love with Holt Jackson for five long years, ever since she went to work for the then fledgling contractor. Now Holt is a big success and apparently totally oblivious to his invaluable assistant’s feelings.

When rough around the edges Holt announces that he needs a society wife, one with the right connections, to help his business, Bennie -- with a bit of prodding from her friend -- places a personal ad in the paper. Turns out that, unbeknownst to her boss, Bennie has blood as blue as any in Alabama. What happens when Holt discovers that the woman he has arranged to meet is his best friend Bennie and what happens when the two are stranded by a washed out bridge is the gist of the story.

All three entries in 3. 2. 1...Married concentrate nicely on developing the relationship between the hero and the heroine. All three do a fine job of creating likable characters ad believable situations. All three are fun to read. Can’t ask for much more in an anthology.

--Jean Mason


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