First Comes Love - Christie Ridgway - 2002

I admit to enjoying a fluffy contemporary every once in a while, especially after a particularly angsty historical. I read Ridgway's Christmas and New Years' themed books last year on a whim from the library. I remembering enjoying them but not being blown away by characters or content. To my surprise "First Comes Love" features a hero and heroine with some real depth and history. I liked them both and wanted that sizzling sexual chemistry to develop into a lasting love - but, what is up with a secret marriage plot line??? It's not the painful secret baby but is it any better?

Despite the truly out there premise involving a miner's marriage loophole and one blurry night spent together years before I liked the lead characters, even a heroine who makes a very ridiculous decision. I loved the cast of crazies inhabiting the hamlet of Hot Water, a would-be ghost town turned tourist trap (a Gold Rush Colonial Williamsburg if you will) complete with period dress and playacting. Kitty, our heroine very neatly ropes our hero, Dylan into the starring role of Sheriff to her Madam of "The Burning Rose." In this small town atmosphere memories are long and roles are etched in stone, the descendants still pay for the mistakes or triumphs of their forefathers. Kitty and Dylan both love and feel trapped by Hot Water. Dylan, a golden boy forced out by tragedy and a self-induced exile is also a studly FBI agent. Thank goodness Ridgway uses his profession more for filler and rumors than actual plot, otherwise this sweet little story would have ended up somewhere I didn't want to go.

With the exception of the plot device that reunites the h/h at the beginning of the novel, I would have really loved this book for what it was, cute and entertaining. It's a testament to Ridgway's charm that I bought into this world and characters while reading, but I haven't found a keeper yet.