Posted in: AztecLady Reviews, reviews
Tags:category romance, Contemporary Romance, Karen Templeton
After much prodding and pushing, nagging and cajoling (because a lot of that is needed to get me to read a book, obviously *ahem*) I finally caved in and got this novel. It is the third installment in Ms Templeton’s Guys and Daughters miniseries (Dear Santa and Yours, Mine… or Ours? being the first two), and also the first book by her that I’ve read.
May I say how glad I am to have friends who will keep piling great book recommendations on me?
Here’s the blurb:
Baby, be mine!
Kevin Vaccaro just found out he was a father… of a five-month-old! He’d put up a hell of a fight to overcome his troubled past. That was nothing compared to the battle he was about to wage for his child’s future.
Julianne McCabe had no intention of giving up her sister’s child—the child she loved as her own—without a fight. Yet that was before Kevin started bonding with his daughter. Before he awoke feelings that made the grieving widow long to share more than late-night feedings. But was she ready to risk her heart again to be the wife Kevin needed? To become the family they both wanted?
Guys and daughters—they’re the first men in their daughters’ lives—but they won’t be the last!
This is a Silhouette Special Edition romance novel; the story is much better than the blurb suggests (but then, what else is new?). Seriously though, while there are some widely used staples of the romance genre here, such as the grieving widow, the surprise baby, the was-good-for-nothing-turned-good hero, the meddling parent. The difference between other novels and this one is all in the execution, as is most often the case with good writing, regardless of genre.
This novel is barely 210 pages, with great pacing up until almost the very end. The plot is actually quite straightforward, with no major dramatic twists. There’s no chase, criminal conspiracy, blood, what have you—this book is about people finding themselves and each other, and as such, it’s completely character driven.
Julianne, our heroine, was finally living a great life. She overcame her mother’s suicide and being the sensible teen to her younger sister’s wild child ways, and fell in love with a good man who loved her and made her deliriously happy. A few years down the road, still happy as can be, and on the verge of starting a new career, Julianne lost her husband in a crash caused by a drunk driver—the crash which also put her in the hospital and terminated her pregnancy. Since that night, she has mostly existed in limbo, and the only human being capable of reaching her has been her baby niece.
Kevin, on the other hand, had a great family and little real conflict growing up, but his own personality led him to blow routine, everyday incidents completely out of proportion and to escape his ‘problems’ through alcohol and pot. A few years later, his innate character moved him to take stock of the mess he had made of his own life, and to straighten up. In the process of getting help with his own addictions, Kevin has to leave his girlfriend of the moment behind—who happens to be a) a serious substance abuser; b) Julianne’s younger sister; and c) pregnant. All of which he finds out a year later, when he comes back as a recovering addict, to face his mistakes.
The thing I like the most about this story is the main characters’ internal dialogue. What Julianne and Kevin are going through is not an easy situation in any case, but with their emotional baggage, it would have been quite easy for the book to become clogged by melodrama. Instead, Ms Templeton’s characterization shows us the resilience and strength inside them as they work through their own conflicting emotions and needs and fears.
Neither of them suddenly becomes someone new and improved with no resemblance whatsoever to the character the readers have gotten to know; we simply witness their growth through the book in such an organic manner that there’s no real surprise. Julianne’s internal musings, especially, show us her inner vitality and strength, all while being funny. Funny but never cheesy nor cheap.
Most of the secondary characters are also well drawn and complex in their own right. For example, Victor Booth (Julianne’s father) is not the one dimensional villain of the piece, singlemindedly determined to keep his daughter and Kevin apart. He has his own life, his own internal conflicts and dialogue which flesh him out and make him that much more real, approachable, human. Beth, Victor’s love interest, shows only for a few pages, but her feelings and reactions are conveyed both succinctly and realistically.
Felix, Kevin’s old friend and the one who first helped him on his path to recovery, has a few false moments for me—but this is a cultural thing, since I’m Mexican myself, and usually have quibbles with how Mexican characters are written.
My only real issue with both characterization and pacing is when Kevin’s parents are introduced to the reader. Perhaps for readers who have read the two previous installments this is not a problem, but for me they seemed a bit too cartoonish, too exaggerated in their uniqueness/eccentricity/what have you, too… well, too much, frankly. The last scene, on the other hand, is very heartfelt and true to the tone of the rest of the story, and did finish selling me on the idea that this couple has found what each of them need, within themselves and with each other, to nurture a healthy relationship.
Great characterization through internal and external dialogue make for a memorable read for me, which means that I’m going to be looking for more of Ms Templeton’s titles posthaste.
8 out of 10