Dear Ms. Arend,
While heroines aren’t all the sweet young things they used to be when I started reading romances way too many years ago, it’s still nice to read about ones who are over age 30. And to have a younger man hot on her trail and determined to get her just tops it off nicely and is what got me interested in this story. But the book tends to skim over outside reactions to the relationship and when Max comes off as almost TGTBT, it waters the book down for me.
Maxwell Turner has been in love with Natasha Bellingham for years, ever since he was 17. When he discovers her plans, after a long string of failed relationships, to conceive via artificial insemination, he decides to make his move. He’ll volunteer for duty but with a caveat – he wants marriage and, eventually, forever with her. Can he get her to agree to his plans and then woo his way into her heart?
Okay, I do find a 17 year old saying he’s in love with a 27 year old slightly creepy but 24 + 34 = very much better, IMO. And he’s in love with her mind and personality as well as her bod which is okay too. The fact that Tasha was twitchy about any relationship with him, at least until he was years older, kept me reading. There’s marrying younger and then there’s cradle robbing and I know which I’d rather not read in a romance. At one point, Tasha wonders “A long term relationship. What exactly did that mean to a 24 year old?” which seems a legit worry to me. But Max is always shown as crazy in love with Tasha and this issue is never really explored to my satisfaction.
I’ve got to be honest and say that Max is almost too much of a good thing. Young, hot, attentive, mature outlook on life, good with children, great job, great family, clean bill of health, smart, honest and takes his responsibilities for her orgasms seriously. He’s like a Ken doll with gonads. Men like this – with no faults – exist? It’s nice not to have a rat bastard hero but come on.
So since Max is onboard with the relationship from before day one, the issues are almost all with Tasha. We haven’t really “seen” the losers she’s dated, not in this book, so the background provided has to stand in for why she’s so reluctant to drink the Koolaid of Max’s devotion. Her early childhood lack of love from parents + the drips she’s dated would account for this hesitancy on her part. That plus just getting over her initial reluctance to finally date Max and accept that he can be an object of desire after years of mental “hands off.”
I do like how Tasha’s movement towards emotional intimacy with Max is begun. She fesses up to him why she’s been holding back instead of stonewalling or denying. To me that’s a great sign of her growing trust in him and dismantling of the wall she erected around her heart. Thank goodness it’s not an instant “oh, now I’m ready for emotional intimacy after baring my heart.” She still needs some time. Maxwell doesn’t rush his fences, doesn’t push Tasha for something she’s not ready to give and that yields the results he wants and made me feel more comfortable about the HEA. The book takes time to allow for the natural development of love beyond the initial lust/like that Tasha readily admits to. Since this is such a big step for them – what with the baby already on the way and all – that’s important to me.
Since the rest of the Turner clan embraces Tasha and Max’s relationship, almost the only external conflict in the story is from one person. The vitriolic scenes with Lila are the only external sand in the Vaseline to the path of the HEA. The reasoning behind her intense opposition isn’t really made clear but that’s okay with me. Maybe you have future plans or maybe you’re going for realistic “some things we’ll just never understand” and let’s not dwell on this person’s negatives. The ultrasound tech’s mistake that Max is the brother instead of the husband and the one mention of Tasha’s thoughts about how a few people have given them “raised eyebrow” looks are the only other brief reminder to the reader that these two have faced some outside confusion/rejection of their relationship.
The reason for the MOC is for Tasha to get pregnant so I expected sex and lots of it. Fans of public sex will be happy to know that happens. And more than once. Plus lots of very intense – but emotionally as well as physically – private sexing. TBH, after the first encounter or two, I tend to skim sex scenes but for readers who savor each and every one, you provide lots of opportunities for them to do so. The sexual match up is perfect though with Max still ready at the drop of a hat and Tasha reaching her sexual prime.
I don’t get all mushy about children or pregnancy, so I was relieved that despite the fact that a baby figures so prominently in bringing about Max and Tasha’s relationship and is often mentioned for the rest of the book, that it isn’t All Baby, All the Time. And, as discussed earlier, that Baby doesn’t magically provide the only reason for Tasha to fall for Max. The birth scene is a hoot though.
Oh, hang it.” Tasha bent slightly, hands on her knees, her breath escaping in rapid gasps. Far too rapid.
He rubbed her back, feeling more than a little helpless. “Hey, remember our classes. Slower, if you can. You’ve got a long time to-‘”
“Maxwell, I’ve been in labor for the past three hours, I think I’ve figured out the damn breathing bit.
Oh damn. Fuck, fuck, fuck, that one hurt.” She stopped again, trying to catch her breath, but it was a struggle. In the far distance, the siren of an ambulance cut through the air. The pain shifted, and suddenly instead of squeezing her to pieces, a sharp pressure speared between her legs. “Umm, Max?”
He ducked in front of her, staring up into her eyes. His face was white in the pale light, and he looked far older than usual. “What?”
“I need to push.” And like right now. She might want to wait, but this kid had other ideas.
“Shit, are you sure?”
She snapped at him. “No, it’s just a sudden fancy I have. Arghh, crap, this hurts. It didn’t so much-shit-until now, but- Oh my God.”
The road from “I’ll fill in for a turkey baster and btw I want forever” + Tasha’s acceptance of a MOC to a HEA on both sides is a long one. While Maxwell verges on almost TGTBT, it’s a nice fantasy. But it’s his constant showing of love and willingness for forever that helps breaks down her reservations. I wish there had been more time devoted to the few roadblocks on the way but they are dealt with and overcome by Max and Tasha working together and talking which trumps the “suddenly it’s all sunshine” resolutions I’ve seen before. Not everything worked here for me but enough to give it a B-