His Tomboy Bride

The Third Kiss

Just Say Yes by Leanna Wilson
(Harl. Tempt. #831, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25931-X
Just Say Yes! is built on an engaging premise, that of saving a damsel in distress. Annie Baxter is at the church, waiting for her groom to show up. She's especially concerned and well she should be. This is her third engagement, and she's been jilted twice before. When her groom shows up, she's able to breathe a sign of relief. The third time will be a charm.

Oops, Annie's third time is destined to be a repeat of the other two engagements. Instead of her fiancé, his brother has come to give her the bad news. Annie's groom, fiancé number three, is a no-show. What no one immediately notices is that her fiancé and his brother are twins.

Annie impulsively hits on an idea to save her pride. She'll cajole the brother to be a stand-in and marry her, pretending to be his twin brother. Think of it as a practical joke, she advises. After the ceremony they'll go their separate ways at the airport, with no one in her small west Texas home town being the wiser.

Grant Stevens is no stranger to jilted fiancés. His brother has done this before, but Grant is impressed at the resiliency of this latest fiancée. He's not comfortable with this faux wedding, but he'll do what he can to get Annie out of a jam.

But instead of a clean getaway at the airport, Annie and Grant are faced with well-wishers who've followed them. After overhearing people casually discuss their surprise that Annie had finally gotten hitched this time, Grant impulsively buys Annie a ticket on his flight back to New York. That'll give Annie more time to regroup and decide what she's going to do with the rest of her life.

Grant is my least favorite kind of hero, the one who has to be convinced that marriage and commitment are not two of the seven deadly sins. He remembers how bad his parents' marriage was and has made a firm promise that he'll never marry. So whenever he realizes that he's becoming interested in Annie, either sexually or emotionally, he immediately backs up. If he were a car, his reverse gear might need replacing.

Grant is so opposed to a committed relationship that when his twin brother reappears, he actually encourages Annie to try to mend fences. Even though we understand his motivations, this is just too unheroic, too chicken-hearted. He's not doing this for Annie; he's encouraging the relationship so he'll be out of emotional harm's way. Actually, this rates high on my ick factor score card.

Annie is more likable, mainly because she's not afraid of relationships. True, she's beginning to become gun shy, with good reason, but she likes Grant and isn't afraid to let him know. At one point Grant ponders her interest in him and wonders how genuine it is, considering that a week ago she was engaged to his brother. Good point, Grant.

Annie loves New York and decides that she'll get a job, an apartment and kiss her hometown goodbye. That's certainly an understandable decision. I've been to west Texas and New York. Much as it hurts my provincial soul to say it, New York is better. What surprised me, though, was that Annie didn't experience any culture shock. She immediately accepts the perpetually crowded sidewalks, the hustle and bustle and the vibrancy that is New York. Even Dorothy knew that Oz was different from Kansas.

My analysis of what works for me in this story and what doesn't boils down to my dislike of the reluctant hero. Grant's on-again, off-again interest in Annie bothers me. He comes off as stilted and too rigid. He's about as spontaneous as a slug on a cool morning.

Grant is the sticking point for me. I much prefer heroes who are the pursuers and in Just Say Yes!, he's anything but aggressive. Too bad!

--Linda Mowery

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