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REVIEW:  A Father at Last by Julie Mac

REVIEW: A Father at Last by Julie Mac

Dear Ms. Mac:

As a secret baby book, the story must do two things: 1) convince me that keeping the secret justified and 2) that the secret should be kept for an ongoing period of time.

A Father At Last by Julie MacUnfortunately both failed for me. The story starts out with young Kelly Atkinson watching her father be locked behind bars. This prologue is designed to provide the justification for the seven years Kelly kept her son from the man who was his father. Ben Carter was deemed by Kelly as a bad bet and didn’t want her son to suffer the same pain as she did. Of course, he was good enough to sleep with and she refers to him as “her soul mate. Her ex-soul mate.”

She did try to find Ben when her son was a toddler and the few times she found any information suggested that her decision to keep Ben at a distance was wise.

Despite not seeing each other for seven years, Ben and Kelly run into each other near the courthouse as she is taking a break from her obligations as a duty solicitor at the Auckland District Court. (I wasn’t sure what that was, but it sounded like she was a public defender). He pretends to initially not know her but then follows her later to explain that he was running with some bad gang guys and wanted to ensure that unwanted attention wasn’t directed toward her.

It seems fairly apparent from the onset that Ben is likely undercover. Kelly assumes that all her suppositions about where Ben would end up were fulfilled. Even after seven years of absence, Ben confronts her about their one night together so many years ago.

He drew her hand to his chest and leaned his other hand on the lift wall beside her, so that his face was close to hers, the scowl gone. “I tried to contact you, lots of times, after that night we had together.” There was a rough edge to his voice. “I couldn’t find you. I concluded you didn’t feel the same way I did about a replay. Eventually I gave up.”

That sort of talk, albeit relatively unbelievable, does little to help the justifications Kelly will later have to make to justify her silence and then her subsequent ongoing lies. When Ben asks her straight up whether her child is his, she lies, of course, and then proceeds to tell him that even if her son was his, she would never tell him.

Perhaps in an effort to curry reader acceptance of Kelly’s actions, Ben’s response is muted. He understands and isn’t angry. He wants Kelly back and to create a new family.  Kelly is resistant because she is afraid of being hurt (see her father’s actions).  Ben tries to signal to Kelly that he is not what she presumes.  “Maybe I’m a good guy in disguise,” he tells her.  Ben’s position requires him to continue with the lie to her, foolishly asking her to believe that he is a decent person despite all the outward evidence to the contrary.

But even beyond my reluctant acceptance of Kelly’s motives was just the writing itself which seemed rather plodding punctuated by melodrama.

Then he looked up, and kicked, but his aim was way off, and instead of heading straight for the other boy, the ball was coming to Ben.

Like an arrow to my heart.

The initial meet in the elevator where Ben bares his soul to Kelly after not seeing her for seven years rang as forced as when Kelly admits that she is afraid of losing him in Chapter Three despite them not actually having any kind of relationship.

Kelly and Ben both have past issues with their fathers which have informed their life. More secrets come out and Kelly, in particular, has to learn to forgive her father in order to move on with Ben.  Ben and Kelly keep their secrets from each other for a long while, too long in my opinion.

The low key nature of the storytelling along with the overly dramatic and forced emotional highs came off false.  C-

Best regards,



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REVIEW:  The Forbidden Ferrara by Sarah Morgan

REVIEW: The Forbidden Ferrara by Sarah Morgan

Dear Ms. Morgan:

Secret baby stories are often hard for me to swallow, particularly in this modern day when fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Ordinarily, I likely would have set this book aside after the first chapter when it is revealed that the heroine, Fia, has kept her son’s parentage a secret for over three years with her only excuse that the relationship had been a one night stand.

The Forbidden Ferrera Sarah MorganThe Ferrara family and the Baracchi family have been feuding for two generations.  Santos Ferrara, a younger son, and Fia Baracchi shared one explosive and secret night with each other which resulted in the creation of Luca.

Santos reconnects with Fia when he decides that he will win back the property lost to his family two generations ago. He needs Fia’s cooperation, cooperation he stupidly (in my opinion) believes he will be able to obtain despite having a one night stand with her and never speaking to her again.  But this is Santos Ferrara and throughout the book, he is treated as a man who makes no mistakes and thus if someone like Fia would not speak to him it is only because she is a foolish child hanging onto foolish grudges.

While I was perturbed with Fia keeping Luca a secret from Santos, Santos never thought to connect with Fia after their one night stand either. Santos refers to their one encounter as a relationship but from the description, it more resembled an anonymous hookup:

Before tonight they’d never actually spoken. Even during that one turbulent encounter, they hadn’t spoken.

Much of the first half of the book was spent reading the two trade accusations, insults, and assumptions about each other. Santos assuming the worst about Fia’s parenting skills and Fia responding with barbs about his lack of experience with children. Santos is often putting Fia in a position to have to apologize. Santos, of course, is never wrong even when he is wrong. Weirdly, when Santos is incorrect, he never apologizes whereas Fia’s dialogue frequently begins with “I’m sorry.”

Santos assumes that Fia is a bad parent because she grew up in a shitty household.  When Fia explains that she would not want for her son the same childhood that she had, Santos questions how she could have even learned good parenting skills:

And if you know what mine was like then you should also know that I would never want that for my son. I don’t blame you for your concern but you are wrong. I do understand what a family should be. I always have.’

‘How? Where would you learn that? Certainly not in your own home.’ Her home life had been fractured, messy and unbelievably insecure because the Baracchi family didn’t just fight their neighbours, they fought amongst themselves. If family was a boat built to weather stormy seas, then hers was a shipwreck.

Santos even believes that Fia has allowed their son to be abused, at least emotionally, on the basis of his years ago past interaction with Fia.

Sweat beaded on his brow. He could barely allow himself to think about what his son’s life must have been like. What was the long-term impact of being raised in an emotional desert? And what if the abuse hadn’t just been emotional?

Santos doesn’t like that Fia uses nannies.  His aunts and cousins could watch Luca but no stranger and certainly not “paid” help. Interaction with Fia shows Santos that she is a good mother, but no apologies are forthcoming from Santos. His outrage and assumptions are justified.

He just took control, she thought numbly, the way the Ferraras always took control. Not once did he hesitate or fumble.

His insistence that they would be passionate lovers again and that he would make her feel for him made me uncomfortable. Certainly this was a romance book and that may be the end result but at the time he was making these delcarations, Fia had just placed her only relative in the hospital, was reeling from having to face the father of her child, and was doing her best to cope. Telling her that she was going to be naked and under him soon enough sounded like an ominous threat and not a passionate promise.

This book hewed so closely to a pattern of HPs and lacked the originality and freshness other Morgan HPs have brought. I wasn’t surprised at anything that came out of Santos’ mouth because it comprised mostly of him telling Fia what she was going to do, where she was going to do it, and how she was going to feel while doing it. Fia, for her part, lived up to the fragile adjective that was used to repeatedly describe her. She would often jump to conclusions which would necessitate her apologizing. “I’m sorry” was her regular refrain.

At one point, Santos admonishes Fia for appearing angry with him in front of the child. How obvious that Fia would be the one to be angry and not Santos because everything Santos does is either right or with the right intentions. Fia is the flawed one.  By the end, of course, Fia opens up beautifully as Santos predicted she would, under his tutelage and passionate hands, and they live happily ever after.  Blergh.  C-

Best regards,



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