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Her Bachelor Challenge
by Cathy Gillen Thacker
(Harl. American #937, $4.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-16937-X
Her Bachelor Challenge introduces us to the Deveraux family and their legacy. It seems that a century ago, Aunt Eleanor had an unrequited love and now haunts the family mansion, with some curse about no one finding his or her true love. This was very loosely written and not a strong part of the story. Fortunately, the romance itself is a promising beginning to a new series.

Chase Deveraux, son number two, has branched off from the family shipping business to publish a men’s magazine. The premise of this magazine is how to find happiness with or without a wife. He is a carefree bachelor, seemingly convinced marriage is not the answer. Yet he is feeling a little lost and discontent with the way things are in his life.

Daughter of a long-time domestic, Bridgett Owen has made something of herself. Born out of wedlock, she was raised as part of the Deveraux clan, since her mother worked for the family and was accepted as one of them. At thirty-two, Bridgett has just completed a successful book tour promoting her advice to women on financial stability and investing. She is smart, independent and looking for marriage.

Bridgett has always felt some discomfort due to her illegitimacy and is seeking security. She has been dating a rich older man, Martin Morgenstern, with whom she feels comfortable and safe in the knowledge that passion does not rule their relationship. Chase, her long-time friend, thinks she is making a mistake and sets out to prove to her she needs to break things off with Martin.

Bridgett has always had a crush on Chase, but fears what passion and love might do to her friendship with him. Chase has never seen Bridgett as anything other than a friend. Now, spending more time together, Chase discovers his feelings and the two slowly realize they are meant for each other. Their journey of discovery is the story.

Much of the tale works and works well. Chase is a good man, and one whom the reader gets to know as his layers are revealed. By the end, his depth and feelings keep him from the predictable macho man persona. But it is a slow development, creating a feeling of frustration that he seems too conventional of a hero. Bridgett is a strong heroine, knowing her own mind, and fully aware that she is compromising. When she is forced to re-evaluate why she has made the choices she has, she does so with her eyes open and a firm grip on the risk she is taking to change her mind.

However, the premise and some of the sidelights leave a flat feeling. The legacy mystery seemed to be thrown in to tie the series together, but seemed less than thought out. There is also some mystery surrounding the Deveraux parents and their divorce that seemed erratically introduced and intertwined. Since this is the first in the series, the reader has no basis for really caring if they are divorced, and their story is minimally developed, thereby creating no genuine interest. And the premise of the daughter of the housekeeper/cook being considered part of the family seemed a little unrealistic.

Martin is a character that is predictable and one-dimensional. I never really understood what Bridgett saw in him, so had no real investment in whether their relationship worked out. It was a “no-brainer” that she would choose Chase over Martin, thus leaving the conflict unexciting.

The sexual tension builds nicely and there is a nice blend of romance to make the transformation from “friendship” to lover seem realistic. The glimpses of the siblings are nicely interwoven, creating some interest while not interfering with Chase’s story.

On the strength of the main characters, Her Bachelor Challenge is a satisfying story with a romantic tale of discovery. There is a strong enough sense of the siblings to think this will be an interesting series to follow. Keep your eye on it.

--Shirley Lyons

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