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The Fugitive Bride
by Margaret Watson
(Silh. Int. Mom. #920, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07920-6
***
The Fugitive Bride is Watson's fourth book in her Cameron, Utah series. Unfortunately, it is not the best one.

Shea McAllister and her brother Dev own the Red Rock Ranch, but Dev is the town's sheriff and uninterested in ranch life. Shea loves the ranch and has been running it since their father died. Dev was featured in Cowboy with a Badge (SIM 904), where we also met Shea. Since she was such a likeable character, I was looking forward to reading this book.

Shea is shorthanded and word in town is that she is hiring. Stranger Jesse Coulton appears looking for work. He is everything she should hire: bright, strong, willing to work and super good-looking. He is also an undercover agent for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who is searching for illegal aliens and the employers who hire them.

When two of her ranch hands are in a truck accident, Shea, who is now desperate for workers, takes the calculated risk of hiring Jesse. And it is a risk, because she is hiding children in a cabin on the ranch who have escaped from an oppressive country.

Jesse falls in love with Shea but nonetheless goes forward with his investigation. Determined to save her from herself, he jockeys with her for access to the cabin.

Occasionally, one must suspend disbelief while reading The Fugitive Bride. While Shea's motive is altruistic, expecting the authorities to overlook the crime was hard for me to do. And perhaps because sections of the book also moved too slowly, it gave me too much time to speculate.

Romance blossoms between Shea and Jesse despite the obstacles; however, I was never fully persuaded that it was the hottest thing going. Both characters have depth, and the dialogue is entertaining, but the chemistry that Watson is capable of creating is more lackluster here. Certainly the romance in any of the other three of this series is better done. But if you have read the other books in the Cameron, Utah, series you might find The Fugitive Bride more than an average read.

--Thea Davis


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