REVIEW: Lola and the Single Dad by Kelly Hunter
When love comes to town…
Artisan blacksmith Ned Harrow lost his wife and gained a son, all in the space of a day. Since then, he’s been caring for his son, Ollie, and working to rebuild his business. When his neighbour’s visiting goddaughter offers to help, she’s a lifeline and so much more. Ned knows the beautiful and fun-loving Lola isn’t staying long, but she’s impossible to resist and his heart is cracking wide open.
Actress Lola Darcy has never hit the big time and she’s beginning to wonder if she ever will. She’s in-between auditions when she visits her godmother in Wirralong. The country life and adorable baby she can sing to is a balm to her heart that’s been wounded by so many rejections. Lola loves caring for the sweet babe next door, and his eye candy father makes the visit even better.
As Lola and Ned become friends and perhaps more, the part of a lifetime beckons. Should she follow her dream or create new ones in Wirralong?
Dear Ms. Hunter,
Despite not reading any of the other books in the “Outback Babies” series set in the wonderful town of Wirralong, Australia, I was all on board for this one. There are some returning characters including Tilly and Henry but these people are (briefly) included in a way that feels natural rather than book-hawking. The start was great, the ending was wonderful but somewhere along the way in the middle things got a little muddled and lost.
Lola Darcy decided to surprise her godmother with a quick trip from Melbourne to Wirralong to celebrate Rosa’s birthday. It’s a good thing Lola did as 70 year old Rosa ended up needing transport to the local hospital. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, Lola discovers another thing she wasn’t expecting to find at Rosa’s house – a baby.
While working at his forge next door to his friend and part time babysitter’s house, Ned finally notices the red and blue flashing lights that take him straight back to the nightmare of his wife’s death and his son’s birth. Some strange woman is also now holding his son, young Oliver. Once his panic dissipates, Ned and Lola work out an arrangement wherein she will help look after Ollie while keeping an eye on her recuperating godmother.
Lola is an actress and looking for her big break. While she’s in Wirralong, she’ll enjoy what the town and people have to offer but she’s not planning on staying. Ned is still grieving for his wife and building a career making bespoke, high end metalcrafts. Is there a chance for them to grow a relationship and are either of them ready for one if they can?
The book kicks off to a great start with Lola, who lives large – for many reasons – showing up and keeping her head while dealing with the stress of her godmother’s injuries and unexpectedly having a baby there as well. When Ned races over and almost loses his shit when the traumatic memories flood back, Lola calmly deals with him, too.
Oliver starts out as the binder in their relationship but quickly comes into his own as Not A Plot Moppet. He reacts well to Lola’s song and dance style of entertainment – though Ned can’t quite place some of the show toons his son seems to suddenly be humming (“Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!”). Ned does recognize “The Vegemite Song” (which I had to look up. Go to Youtube and type that in. Look for the black and white clip with children dressed like clowns if you want nightmares or the 80s version if you don’t.)
I like that Ned is shown with complicated feelings in regards to his deceased wife. He loved and still loves her deeply, misses her and the life they had planned, is grateful when someone asks about her and lets him talk about her, but he’s also a year past her death and tentatively willing to fall in love again. Though he initially thinks of the “willing to fall in love again” as a future thing and doesn’t immediately fall for Lola, he does acknowledge the sparks between them and is (eventually) willing to take that to a physical level.
Now that’s part of what seemed too rushed to me. Lola and Ned feel the attraction between them but after both have (loosely) denied this, Lola suddenly dives in and suggests no strings sex even though she’s unsure of her future there (we see her auditioning for what could be a breakout TV role) and Ned has said nothing about the future. Good on Lola for owning her sexuality but it felt too fast given the relationship were it stood. Bits also seemed a little disjointed. Ned’s in-laws’ grief is brought up and shown with one loud scene then — gone.
I did think the final conflict brought together a lot of what Lola and Ned needed to work out and in a “reverse way” that wasn’t what I was expecting. They were forced to face what they wanted and needed from each other as well as their own wishes. Ned also immediately realizes that he might not have handled things well and makes this right in a wonderful scene which is way too long to quote as I would have ended up putting three pages here. Yay on giving the story a 6 month epilogue before their HEA as I felt they needed this time. So all in all a good book but with a few issues for me. B-
This is what I get for not following authors on social media: I suddenly discover one of my favorites just released a new book! I’ll be grabbing this as soon as I turn on my kindle. I have loved Hunter’s contribution to the Outback Brides of Wirralong series (there’s more than one series, and I especially loved Hunter’s earlier MAGGIE’S RUN, which sets the entire “Outback destination wedding venue” plot in motion), but be warned: there are other writers contributing books to the series—and I haven’t found their books to be quite up to the same level as Hunter’s.
@DiscoDollyDeb: I’ve read 3 of the “Outback Brides Return to Wirralong” series with varying degrees of success. I’ve bought some of the books from other series but just haven’t got to them yet.