The Overnight Groom
by Elizabeth Sinclair
(Harl. American #787, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16787-
**
Young rising star Miami lawyer Grant Waverly is in the running for a junior partner in his firm, a step that he sees as the first step to the big times. When a background check shows that he's married, he's totally confused. He's not married. Oops, wait a minute! In college he and steady girl friend Katie Donovan participated in a pretend wedding ceremony in Vegas. They and the minister were all drunk.

Drunk or not, the minister did file the wedding license. Grant and Katie have been married these last seven years, and neither knew it. In fact, Grant hasn't seen Katie since college and has to look at the alumni newsletter to even know where she is these days.

Katie is in St. Augustine, running a profitable antique shop and planning her wedding. In three months she'll marry a dull, staid college professor. Katie is marrying the prof because he won't be putting his career above all else, as was the case with her college love, Grant. She wants no part of automatons that put their careers above family and friends. She remembers that Grant was a workaholic. No, good old dependable Charles will suit her just fine. She doesn't need passion or excitement. Nope, she needs someone who'll be around through thick and thin.

In a really predictable plot line, Grant's bosses insist that he bring his wife to a black-tie festivity. They want to meet her. Suddenly his chances at the junior partnership have just increased because he's a married man. Grant is in a real bind. He has to convince Katie to come to Miami to the party and pretend to be his lovey-dovey wife.

He offers Katie a deal; go along with his charade, and he'll sign the annulment papers. Katie agrees to his blackmail scheme because if that is the only way Grant will sign the annulment papers, then she has no choice. At the party he loses more points with Katie as he tries to explain why no one has met her. Grant lies, telling everyone that Katie is a photographer who's always going to exotic locations for shoots. Katie is hurt that denigrates even her occupation. Seeing how Grant is willing to placate his bosses in order to get the promotion only solidifies her earlier beliefs

Katie leaves the party in a huff and calls her fiancé who's at a local hotel. When Charles picks her up in front, the wife of one of Grant's bosses, sees them kissing.

The story at this point takes another convoluted turn involving more lies. And do these lies ultimately catch up with Grant and Katie? Oh, yes, indeedy, they do!

Charles the Bland, Katie's fiancé, didn't add anything to the story. He's dull, bossy and a prig. How Katie could ever consider marrying him is beyond me. Even her mother accuses her of settling for Charles. And Charles is written with such heavy-handedness that, even if this weren't a romance with a guaranteed HEA, he would never be anybody's first choice.

The ending didn't even make me happy, either. All the loose ends and problems seemed to be solved too easily, as if a magic wand had been waved over these two. When somebody gives up lifelong beliefs and goals at the snap of a finger, then how important were those beliefs, anyway. This just didn't feel right.

Overnight Groom uses clichéd themes that we've seen before. Combine that with characters who are flat, colorless and uninteresting, and you've got a story that's not worth recommending. I honestly didn't care who Katie ended up with. The preposterous ending still bothers me. So did the implausibilities, convolutions, lies and lifeless people.

--Linda Mowery


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