Synopsis: Holt Landen was in trouble. He'd been left a six-month-old child he never knew he had, and while he'd attracted plenty of babes in the past, they were always the kind in high heels and garters. Diapers were disturbingly new, and they called for a plan.
Stevie Stedquest had a problem, too. She dispensed parenting advice on a radio talk show, but she didn't have kids. And though she wanted a child of her own, Mr. Right was nowhere on the horizon – only commitment-phobes and womanizers.
Baby Isabelle needed a mother in the worst way. A temporary marriage between her newfound father and Stevie would solve the problem, but they seemed terribly mismatched. Fortunately, Isabelle had two aces up her diaper: opposites attract, and her daddy wasn’t the only babe magnet in the family.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., 2004; 374 pages; purchased at a library sale.
My thoughts: Where do I start? Ok, with Holt. He's a self-confirmed permanent bachelor, whose parents went through an ugly divorce when he was seven, remarried and divorced again. Holt doesn't believe in love and he's definitely not looking for Miss Right when there are so many Miss Right-nows around. And when a Miss Right-now starts thinking she could be Miss Right, he disabuses her of that notion quickly and moves on to the next Miss Right-now. And then he gets a call from Texas – one of his Miss Right-nows has died in a car accident, leaving behind a six month old baby with a birth certificate naming him as the father. Despite not wanting children and having no idea what to do with one, Holt mans up, goes to Texas and takes custody of his daughter.
Baby Isabelle's mother provided for her financially but not emotionally, leaving her with nannies who never stayed long. Now she's a skinny little waif baby with Attachment Disorder who doesn't like to be touched and cries all the time. When Holt is about at the end of his rope, Stevie's radio program comes on and her voice has a miraculously soothing effect on Isabelle. Holt's solution becomes clear – get this Stevie woman to marry him, become Isabelle's legal mother through a step-parent adoption, then divorce amicably and co-parent Isabelle while living in houses across the street from each other. What could possibly go wrong?
Stevie, of course, is resistant, and I like that it took her awhile to come around to the idea of marriage with Holt. I like the marriage of convenience trope, but I especially like it when the reasons for the marriage are compelling and believable. Holt is everything Stevie avoids in a man, but Isabelle eventually wins her heart, convincing her to agree. It's no spoiler to say that of course Holt and Stevie will end up loving each other and having a satisfying HEA, and the journey to that point is a fun ride.
Robin Wells has a wonderful sense of humor without taking her characters over the top, and her descriptions of Isabelle when she first comes into Holt's and Stevie's lives made my heart ache for her sad little life. The characters of Holt and Stevie are fully fleshed out, and the supporting characters and their side stories are also given substance without interrupting the flow of the book.
Stevie has struggled with weight issues, and is still very self-conscious about her body. At one point, Holt drags her to a mirror and tells her he wants her to see herself the way he sees her, then proceeds to describe her body to her in great complimentary detail. It's a very well written sweet romantic scene that quickly turns scorching hot. In a later scene Holt and Stevie indulge in a little role playing that had me laughing out loud. Actually, I laughed out loud several times throughout the book.
I'm very pleased to have discovered this new to me author, and I'm eager to track down the rest of her backlist.
She'd said she loved him, for Pete's sake. He couldn't sleep with a woman who loved him! That was just courting disaster. - pg 317