“Deserted by her husband because she couldn’t have children, Catherine Holben has thrown herself into her job counseling pregnant teens. Catherine is still recovering from the pain of her divorce, but her life is changed forever when she makes a purchase in a quaint curio shop. She meets handsome, hardworking Joe D’Amaro, a widower and father of three, and his daughter, Fritz. But Joe needs help with Fritz, a seven-year-old dynamo. She’s a precocious but headstrong little girl who’s impossible to resist., and he is too proud to admit it.
Joe and Catherine are cautious about making a commitment to each other. They both know the joy and heartache of falling in love, but are they willing to risk being together despite their misgivings? Neither can ignore the love that quickly blossoms between them. Maybe they can have a wonderful life together . . . if only Joe’s still-grieving older daughter, Della, will accept a new woman in her father’s life.
True love versus reality. Can Catherine handle his ready-made family? Or is there more in store for her than she thinks?”
Dear Ms. Reavis,
What a wonderful, soft, sweet romance that still manages to include some hotness + emotional intensity. Even before their relationship has them burning up the sheets – but not in an overwrought, cliched, purple way – these two care about each other. They care a lot and I can see this, feel it, believe in it. They fight it all the way after a rocky start but for some reason this gets me to believe it even more. I’ve always been dubious about people who fall into insta-love – mainly because often it seems that the two are in love just because the plot demands it – but here I feel I’m watching it happen.
Joe and Catherine have both loved and lost. His first wife died in a car accident and he grieved deeply while Catherine’s husband left her due to their infertility issues. They’ve both known love and, glory be, neither is wailing “I’ll never love again! I just can’t risk ever feeling that pain a second time.” But there are reasons for them to take things slowly and think hard about what they’re doing. Neither is exactly eager to be hurt again but at least they’re not ducking and dodging any potential future. Always a good sign for me.
Catherine isn’t sure about this initially prickly man with his 3 children because Joe can be rude when he’s feeling emotionally in the wrong. She’s also still getting over being dumped by the man she thought loved her and with her teaching schedule, she doesn’t want to jump into anything. Joe is working hard to build his fledgling business and help his intense youngest child. He’s also got issues with a sister-in-law that complicates family things. Then when his beyotch sister-in-law sees a way to twist the situation to her benefit, Joe is faced with his eldest daughter’s anger and pain.
The relationship with the children is heartfelt yet at times also painful. Fritz worries Joe with her solemnness and closely held thoughts. Charlie is easy going. Della is full of pain and the pangs of approaching adulthood. Honestly I think Joe does the best he can and beyond being there and even with listening to your children and explaining things the best you can, there will be times of pain and heartache. The reasons which are built into the story to explain it all give a pretty good source of conflict here and not one that can be easily cleared up. There are plenty of times when I wanted to shake Della, too, til her teeth rattled. But she’s truly at that stage of Teenaged Drama Queenness so her actions and feelings are understandable to anyone who’s ever gone through this age. By the end of the book, it looks like there might be a rainbow in the near future.
Fritz reminds me a bit of several children I’ve known. Quiet with deep inner depths who can worry about things with such intensity. She seems to scare Joe a little and I can see why. Her thoughts and reasoning are those of a young child and to her, they make perfect sense and are completely logical. Her longing for a real mother is that of a child who remembers the loss of her own and who longs for what her older siblings had and that she’s mainly missed. Her interactions with her father and Catherine have a sweetness and tenderness I enjoyed experiencing.
Catherine’s students move the story into the true contemporary range. Teenaged pregnancy is often a springboard for the secret baby books so popular in romances but here the realities of the situation are examined a bit: the social isolation at school, the physical cost paid by 13 year olds giving birth, the harsh home life often faced by these girls. Your own training as a nurse makes these scenes more realistic – especially the hospital ones. The emotional and physical issues of the cancer faced by Catherine’s friend Pat remind me of those of friends of mine – though they didn’t deal with an asshole husband.
It does get a little precious at the end when the pregnant posse + grandmamma (I agree with Clarkson about her) go looking for Joe to make him do right by Catherine. And the discussion with the priest about getting the wedding done on time sounds too cute. And Della’s rethinking of her family options does go down to the wire. But I still like this book for the emotional truths and the solid, well written characters. B