Molly O'Keefe when I read it last year. I loved it so much it damn near sent me into a swoon. I loved it so much that I immediately started flipping through the book to reread certain sections. I loved it so much I almost thought about slapping it with an A+ grade (which I didn't, because frankly I don't believe in them and cooler heads prevailed). However, books like that are almost a bit of a curse for a reader.
Unexpected Family is the follow-up sequel to His Wife For One Night. It features Mia's sister, Lucy, and the hunky former-rodeo star next door. It also wraps up the leftover baggage from the first book - namely between Sandra, Lucy and Mia's mother, and Walter, Mia's now father-in-law. Here's the rub, I have mad, crazy, insane love for that first book. Can this second book possibly live up to that? Well, no. It can't. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it though.
Lucy Alatore is at loose ends. A jewelry designer who caters to exclusive boutiques, a bad business decision has caused her to flame-out in Los Angeles. Uh, and nobody knows about it except for her accountant. Her mother, who lived with her in LA has no clue, and neither does her now blissfully happy sister. She's screwed. She knows she's going to owe some people some serious money, but the experience has left her used, dried up. Her artistic inspiration is gone. Hiding out on the ranch where she grew up, with her mother, and her sister's drunken father-in-law, is where she has landed. Then one night she gives a drunk cowboy a ride home from the bar and runs smack-dab into Jeremiah Stone.
Jeremiah is the stuff of erotic daydreams. A former rodeo star, he's hot, he's hunky, he's the guy you want to party with and....a father of three?! With his brother-in-law and sister both dead, Jeremiah's the one who gets custody of his three nephews - ages 5, 9 and 11. Now this cowboy, the man who could charm the panties off of anything wearing a skirt, the guy whose only concern in life used to be what bar am I hanging out in and what women will I be flirting with, is....not that guy anymore. And damn, he misses that guy. He has no idea what he's doing with his nephews, especially 9-year-old Ben whose soul mission in life seems to be giving Jeremiah an ulcer. Then in waltzes Lucy. Sexy, fun, sassy Lucy. Lucy with her own secrets and problems. Lucy who he can't stop thinking about.
What I've loved about the O'Keefe Supers I've read is that she writes damaged characters that feel authentic. I love that Lucy has sass and spark, but that she's also not perfect. She's running away from her problems. I loved (loved!) that Jeremiah just doesn't fall right into being Super Dad. He's a guy who wants to do the right thing, but he misses his life. He did not sign up to be a "dad" to his three orphaned nephews. It just, happened. And it takes him a big chunk of this book to not only wrap his heart and mind around that, but also to mourn his "old life."
There is a lot going on in this story though, and the romance does get a little lost. Mia and Jack do make appearances, but for the most part they stay off-stage. However the author still has to deal with the Sandra and Walter baggage. Walter who has loved Sandra from afar for years and has been slowly trying to kill himself by drinking and not taking his meds. I loved that the author gives Walter a second chance, but that she doesn't do so by painting a rainbow over his head and disregarding his past sins. There's also the matter of Jeremiah's nephews, who naturally play a hefty role in this story. Now, this is a longer SuperRomance, and that certainly gives an author a little wiggle room for secondary characters and plots. However I still like a very strong focus on the primary romance, and that doesn't really happen with this book until the last half. For that reason I'm left wondering exactly how Lucy and Jeremiah got from lust to love (but boy howdy, the lust is off the charts).
It's hard for me to separate the two books in my mind, but I think if I had read Unexpected Family as a stand-alone, with no knowledge of that first book (which, have I mentioned, how much I loved His Wife For One Night?) - I think this one would have landed somewhere in my B/B- range. It's got a lot of emotional angst, well-developed characters, and some really sparkling dialogue between the romantic couple. Here's the thing though - I did read that first book. Which means I'm already juiced in to the world that O'Keefe has created and I've fallen back under the spell of the characters she's populated in that world. I'm sorry to see them go, to ride off into the sunset - but they'll live on forever in my small pile of keepers.
Final Grade = B+