Promoted: to Wife and Mother by Jessica Hart
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin Romance, 2008, Out of Print, Available Digitally
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: After reading and enjoying some other Jessica Hart book I reviewed (We'll Always Have Paris?), Janet picked up this book as a follow-up read, really enjoyed it, and then sent it on to me to share the wealth. Janet is officially my favorite person for the next few days. The rest of y'all need to stand in line.
The Review: OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG, this was such a good book. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! Such a good book! I even got choked up at one point. Seriously, SUCH a good book!
Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes.....
Perdita James is at one of those uselessly boring "leadership seminars" because the guy who just bought the company she works for thinks it will be "good" for the employees. All she can think about it is how it's a massive waste of her time (girlfriend, I totally feel you). Now she's sitting off in a corner by herself because after some stupidly pointless personality quiz she finds out she's a peacock. A peacock! Not a dolphin or an owl like everybody else. No, a peacock! But turns out she's not alone because up walks a fairly handsome man, although not in a classical sort of way. No, he's not a peacock, he's the only panther in the room. They get to talking, Perdita's mouth gets away from her, and before you can say insert foot - she finds out he's Edward Merrick. Ed Merrick, her new boss. Oopsie daisy!
What follows is an attraction that neither can explain but both try to deny because there are "complications" in their lives. Ed is a widower with three teenage children and he has just uprooted his family from lively London to the staid country-like existence of Ellsborough - which you can imagine the teenagers are just thrilled about! /end sarcasm. Perdita moved back to her hometown after her father passed away unexpectedly and her mother's health started taking a shocking turn toward dementia. She also is just getting over a spectacularly failed relationship with a man she deeply loved - a man who was a single father and whose responsibilities to his family constantly left Perdita out in the cold.
There is so much I liked about this book, and so many subtle risks that the author takes, that I'm probably not going to do it justice in this review. In most other books, Perdita would be a villain. She's head-strong, driven, has "sharp-edges," organized and always stylishly put together. In contrast, Ed's deceased wife (whom he loved deeply) was gentle, kind, and sacrificing, with a classic beauty that meant she didn't have to try too hard. Perdita is nothing like his wife, and at first Ed isn't all that sure he likes her even if he is drawn to her. It's hard to not be drawn to Perdita - she's the kind of woman that people notice when she walks into a bar.
Naturally, as self-assured as Perdita is, she has her hidden vulnerabilities. Her last relationship really did a number on her, and then there is her mother, who was prickly at the best of times, and now with her health declining she's become a real challenge. There's a moment in the latter half of the story, where Perdita is taking care of her mother, a small household crisis occurs, and she's so totally overwhelmed that I got choked up for her. She's a 40-year-old woman who is overwhelmed and alone - with no one to help her share her burden. She's also resigned herself to the fact that she's more than likely going to be alone for the rest of her life, because how many men in her age bracket have time for a relationship? And if they do? They're probably not great relationship material.
What drives this story forward is how is the author going to get these two people together when they both have so much already on their individual plates. With Ed's kids and Perdita's mother, plus their full-time jobs - will they find a way to a happy ending? Of course, this being a Harlequin Romance, we know they do. That said, while I didn't find this ending abrupt, it's certainly not a Sunshine Happy Puppy Dogs Kitty Cats Rainbow sort of ending. Oh, our couple gets together, but realistically we know that their relationship together is going to be a work in progress. It just is. There's too much "real life" stuff floating in their orbit. So don't expect Happy Happy Skipping In A Meadow ending. Expect a We Love Each Other Need To Be Together We'll Figure It All Out With Understanding And Compromise ending. Which you know, is how life and relationships really are. The best part? I have no doubt that while Perdita will do her fair share of compromising, so will Ed. One of those magical stories where I close the book, sigh deeply, and truly feel that these two people are on the very same page. Together.
Final Grade = A