|Virginia Myers: The Dad Next Door|
Hill Books (paperback), ISBN 0-373-87071-X
Kate Graham, the plain-jane widow and mother of two elementary-age children, draws 12-year-old Raymond, son of "the dad next door," under her wing. Raymond suffers from the break-up of his parents' marriage at the instigation of his self-absorbed mother, and Kate resolves to give the sensitive boy some semblance of stability. Raymond's dashing dad, Ian McAllister, deeply appreciates Kate's assistance, since his job takes him out of town far more often than he likes. In typical male fashion, Ian has no clue that he has stolen Kate's heart.
Enter Raymond's mother, Marsha, and her new husband, who possesses "half the money on the planet," to contest the custody agreement that placed Raymond into his father's care. A child of a dysfunctional family himself, Ian recognizes his ex's manipulations and the risks she imposes upon his son's emotional well-being, and he vows not to let her win.
Oblivious to Ian's plight, Kate revamps her image to compete with the beautiful Marsha and attract Ian's notice. Much to Kate's surprise, Ian proposes, and she quickly agrees. But upon returning from their idyllic Hawaiian honeymoon, Kate learns that her husband tricked her into a marriage of convenience to block Marsha's counter-suit and protect the interests of his son. Kate must learn to deal with her heartbreak and help create a loving home for Raymond and her own children.
I don't much care to read about a victim-heroine who spends half the book wallowing in self-pity before deciding to grow a backbone. In fact, only the drama of the custody battle kept me turning the pages, even though I knew that, by definition, Kate and Ian would live happily ever after. If you blink, you'll miss the romance elements altogether. However, I do applaud the author's subtle blending in of the inspirational elements to avoid being preachy.
If you like your romantic fiction extra-mild, with a super-sized order of adolescent pathos on the side, this book just might be for you.
Kim D. Headlee
Kim D. Headlee is the author of Dawnflight, a novel about the legend of Guinevere garnering rave reviews and award nominations from romance and fantasy venues alike.
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