A Bachelor Falls
by Karen Toller Whittenburg
(Harl. American #727, 3.99, G) ISBN 0-373-16727-X
*****
Hallelujah! The long dry spell is over. I was wondering when I would ever find another book I liked well enough to call it a keeper. I've read lots of books lately that I've recommended, but it's so rare to like a book so much because everything feels right.

I must add a codicil here, a disclaimer. I know that this story isn't going to appeal to everyone. Awarding a five-heart rating to a book does not mean that the book is perfect. Occasionally it's a matter of timing. Everything just seemed to fall into place. I needed a wholesome, gentle, warm story after reading books steeped in angst-laden characters. Bachelor just cleansed my emotional palate. Think of it as a cup of cocoa on a snowy afternoon. It contains no sex, no violence, more anticipation than conflict and a hero who likes blond bimbos just a little too much. No, it's not perfect, but it made me feel good the whole time I was reading it. That's a lot, when you think about it.

April, May and June bring us the "Shower" series. The first book, Here Comes the Baby, was an April release, HA 722. A Bachelor Falls is the second book in the "Showers" series, while the third book, coming in June, is Bride to Be....Or Not to Be?

Bachelor Falls, Missouri, is preparing for its annual Bachelor Daze celebration. Legend has it that an unmarried man who doesn't shower in the nearby falls will see his bachelor days ended. So far every man who's avoided the falls on THE day has been married within the year.

Tomboy Ellie Applegate and Dr. Ross Kilgallon have been best friends since sixth grade, ever since she asked Ross to be her bodyguard. They're such good friends that Ross has asked Ellie to be his best man at his wedding. The town eccentric, a delightful woman who blames Alien invasions for most problems, warns Ellie that she's got to help Ross. Aunt Ona Mae foresees trouble for Ross in the form of a zebra. Ellie discounts the warning until she meets Ross' fiancée who, sure enough, is wearing zebra print. The fiancée is also vapid and the standard ditzy blond, the type that Ross usually falls in love with quickly and just as quickly falls out of love. Ellie is afraid that Ross will realize his mistake . . . two days into the honeymoon.

So now Ellie is a best man with a mission; she's got just a few days to convince Ross that he doesn't want to marry nitwit Tori and that his true love has always been his best friend. How she goes about metamorphosing from best man to bride is a truly delightful event.

Ellie sees the first crack in the relationship when she, Ross and Tori have lunch at a local diner. Tori, a vegetarian, thinks that eating beef is as appetizing as eating road kill. When she tells Ellie that her strawberry pie would be better with the "jelly stuff off the berries," Ellie begins to realize that Ross may be in over his head. This culinary scene pitting down-home Southern cooking against vegetarian cuisine was one of the many gentle incidents.

More of the Bachelor Daze festivities are described in this story than in the first. It's really quite funny, imaging grown men running a gauntlet of whipped creme pies, silly string, water balloons and other benign paraphernalia as they try to elude women who want them to forego their bachelor status.

Tori and her friends are painted with a broad brush, with no finesse or subtlety. We're meant to dislike them. From the beginning, we know that Tori is being gently ridiculed. She's no threat. She's like the person who's so harmless that she's amusing.

Whittenburg has filled this story with zingers, one-liners and paragraphs that just pull the whole story more tightly together. The tongue-in-cheek humor is irresistible. In one scene, Ross asks Ellie, a mechanic, to check Tori's Miata. It seems that Tori is finding that the gears are hard to shift.
"Don't forget about the Miata. I drove it down here this morning so you could take a look at the transmission. Tori complains that it's hard to shift."
"She might try using the clutch."

Does this book break any new ground? Heavens, no. It has some stereotyped characters who might offend some, but I found them harmlessly silly. A Bachelor Falls is like that first warm spring day following a cold spell or buying new clothes after a weight loss. It just feels good.

--Linda Mowery


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