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Rich, Single & Sexy

Cowboy in a Tux
by Mary Anne Wilson
(Harl. American # 778, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16778-4
"When there is love, you are married forever."

Cowboy in a Tux is the third and final installment of Harlequin American Romance's "Delaney's Grooms" series. For forty years, Karl Delaney has been tailor to the rich and famous. Apparently, that hasn't been enough to keep him busy. Karl has a penchant for slipping cryptic notes in the pockets of tuxedos he rents. The fruits of his labors have been detailed in two earlier novels Mindy Neff's Suddenly a Daddy and The Last Two Bachelors by Linda Randall Wisdom.

Cowboy in a Tux picks up the baton from The Last Two Bachelors. The story begins with the wedding of Jack and Sandi O'Connor on Montgomery Beach in California. Jack has asked his best friends, Dylan Montgomery (hero of the Neff book) and J.T. Watson, to serve as his best men. J.T. reluctantly agrees to come to the wedding after he is assured that Dylan's younger sister, Candice, will not be in attendance.

J.T. and Candice have a history. Eight years ago, they eloped and were married in Las Vegas. The wedding and the honeymoon went well, but the happily ever after hit a snag when the bride decided to go back to her parents' home in California instead of accompanying the groom to his ranch in Texas.

Candice is member of an overbearing old-money family, the Montgomery Beach Montgomerys. J.T., a relatively nouveau riche cowboy whose family owned a ranch and a multimillion dollar computer company could be friends with their son, but couldn't marry their only daughter. Neither their family nor friends knew they were married. Although Candice's father is dead, his influence lingers.

When a hurricane prevents Dylan and his wife from getting to the wedding, Candice becomes a last-minute substitute in the wedding party. It's the first time Candice and J.T. have seen each other since their ill-fated honeymoon. The symbolism of standing at the wedding altar is not lost on them. J.T. finds a note in his jacket pocket that reads: "When there is love, you are married forever." (I suppose when there is no love, it just seems like forever.)

Candice and J.T. discover they are still lawfully married since neither bothered to legally end the marriage. This presents a problem for Candice who has just become engaged to a suitable suitor. One whom J.T. muses, probably has "Daddy Approved" stamped on various body parts. A guy smart enough to make a quip like that and run an international computer corporation should have known he didn't get any paperwork dissolving his marriage to a woman he claims to love.

Inconsistencies like that and what has to be the longest wedding reception I have ever encountered in fact or fiction weigh the novel down. Candice doesn't seem to have matured much from the 18-year-old J.T. married eight years ago. She's just as spoiled and shallow throughout most of the book.

It is only in the last 150 or so pages, during a road trip to finally end the marriage, that the novel becomes interesting. It is in that portion of the story that readers finally get to know more about the enigmatic Karl Delaney. His story is definitely more intriguing and satisfying. It is probably the one that should have been highlighted in the series that bears his name.

Cowboy in a Tux is a so-so story with a few interesting threads.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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