Sybil and I chatted a couple of weeks ago, and sometime during the course of the phone conversation she mentioned, in passing, how much she enjoyed Dear Santa by Karen Templeton and had I read it? Karen is a semi-regular commenter on various online forums, and being as I'm always on the lookout for good category romances, I decided it was time to inaugurate my new Sony Reader.
I'm glad I did, and big-fat-wet-sloppy kisses (but not in a gay way) to Sybil for recommending this one. I really, really enjoyed it.
Grant Braeburn is the very definition of eligible bachelor. He has a great house in Greenwich, Connecticut and an insane amount of money thanks to his prowess at making sound financial investments. He's divorced from upwardly mobile lawyer Justine, but together they have a beautiful, almost-four-year-old daughter, Haley. Then on one of his weekends with Haley, he gets a call that Justine has died in a car accident. Grant goes into panic mode. How to break the news to his daughter? And while he's a passable father, he's not exactly close to the little girl thanks to his quiet, reserved nature. Now he has to raise Haley on his own and he is beyond terrified.
Desperate beyond words he reaches out to Mia Vaccaro, Justine's best friend. Mia used to work at the same law firm as Justine, until she decided to start her own party-planning business. A lot of people think she's a flake. I mean, who gives up a lucrative career at one of the most prestigious law firms in Manhattan to plan parties? Plus, she's not exactly Grant's biggest fan. She thinks he's a major cold fish. But she does love Haley, and if helping Grant become a better father helps that little girl, she'll do it. Little does she know that Grant is hiding a Big Secret, one that could rock her faith in her now deceased best friend.
Dear Santa is a perfect example of why I love the category romance format. Grant and Mia are both extremely likable characters and don't fall victim to cliche. It would have been so easy for Templeton to write Grant as the aloof, dour, emotionless bachelor stud, but that's not what she gives us. Grant isn't cold, he's just the sort of man who keeps his emotions in check. He doesn't do well with theatrics. A drama queen would probably damn near kill him. But that doesn't mean he's cold or unfeeling - it just means he doesn't put his baggage out on display. I don't know about you all, but I've known a number of men like this in my life. I think it stems from The Boys Don't Cry philosophy.
Mia is a smart girl, from a boisterous family, who just doesn't "get" Grant - at first anyway. But the more time she spends with him, she realizes that she has judged him poorly. And it doesn't help matters that she only saw Grant through Justine's eyes.
The Big Secret here packs a wallop. Readers know what it is almost immediately, and it's devastating enough that I was chomping at the bit for Templeton to reveal it to our heroine. The resulting fall-out doesn't disappoint.
I do have a couple of quibbles. I found some of the chapter transitions a bit abrupt at times. This can probably be chalked up to personal preference. The sexuality level in this story probably falls somewhere around PG, and the author fades to black a couple of times regarding love scenes. Now, I don't need hot, kinky sex in every book I read - but the sexual tension between Grant and Mia was so well done that these moments of the door slamming in my face were a tad disappointing. Hey, romance readers are nothing if not voyeuristic. Also, there were moments when I thought Haley sounded a little too mature for her age - but hey, what do I know? I don't have my own almost-four-year-old to compare her to and at least the precocious tot doesn't have a lisp. Thank God for small miracles.
Minor quibbles aside, I really enjoyed this story. And goody goody - it's the first book in a trilogy. Book two, Yours, Mine...or Ours? featuring Mia's former cop, single father brother is out now with book three, Baby, I'm Yours about another brother, this one a recovering drug addict, due out in the spring. Needless to say, book two is getting downloaded to the Sony Reader this weekend.
Final Grade = A-