Sunday, March 10, 2013

Must Like Kids

A common criticism of romance, and category romance specifically, is that it reinforces traditional female stereotypes.  Most of the time I tend to poo-poo this notion by pointing out some of the more intriguing, challenging, different and refreshing stories readers can find in the category world.  Then, inevitably, I pick up a book where the single mother heroine literally bakes cookies for a living and I visibly wince.   (And before anyone slams me for slamming traditionally female dominated jobs/careers might I invite you to take a look at the title of my blog?).

That's probably what I found the most refreshing about Must Like Kids by Jackie Braun.  Yes, we have a single mother heroine, but she's self-employed in a very non-traditional female job.  As an image consultant, she's essentially a spin doctor.  She manipulates people for a living.  It's not only a wee bit unsavory, it's more than a wee bit subversive.  I have no idea if the author did this on purpose, if in the back of her mind she was looking to show that women could be more than homey Earth mother types - but it was nonetheless very intriguing.

Julia Stillwell has been hired by Best For Baby Inc. to bail their new CEO, Alec McAvoy, out of a jam.  During an interview he told the reporter, “Children have a place and it’s anywhere I’m not.”  Before you can say social media, Alec's gaffe spreads like wildfire, and the shareholders are in a panic.  In steps Julia whose job it is to spearhead the damage control campaign.  She thinks she has Alec pegged from the moment he's late for their first initial meeting.  A playboy who enjoys the finer things in life, who bed-hops from one superficial relationship to the next, who is so busy living in his ivory tower, with a silver spoon shoved up his butt, that he has no concept of what the world is like for "real people."

Naturally, she's wrong.

What follows is an agreeable story about two agreeable people.  Julia is a widow with two young children.  After her husband succumbed to cancer she didn't have time to wallow in grief, she had two babies to take care of and she freely admits that the children kept her going.  She may work in a high-powered profession, but she doesn't let the job run her life.  Since she's self-employed she essentially creates her own schedule, to be there for her kids, even if it means she runs on a lot of caffeine.  Of course this also means that unless it involves work or the kids?  Yeah, she has no life.

Alec grew up in a silver spoon world, but his parents were distant and dismissive.  He was the kid who spent weekends and vacations at his boarding school because Mommy and Daddy were too busy jet-setting to some Caribbean island vacation with their "friends."  Naturally they ran through the family money, and Alec's grandfather stepped in.  When he died?  He left the money in a trust that Alec oversees - which means now Alec is subjected to whiny phone calls from Mommy because even though she's burned through their monthly allowance she just has to have these new designer sunglasses for their sailing trip.

As Julia works on Alec's image, the two naturally succumb to a mutual, heated attraction.  It's lust at first sight, and they naturally resist for a time until Alec steals his first kiss.  In turn, Julia finds herself awakening after a very long slumber, having not been seriously involved with anyone since her husband's death.  She's literally thrown herself into work and her kids.  There's been nothing in between.

The story does lose a little footing for me towards the end.  Frankly, I could have used a bigger confrontation scene between Alec and Julia, especially since Julia is compartmentalizing her life, thereby hurting Alec's feelings (he did have a screwed up childhood, maybe Julia doesn't think he's "good enough" to be around her kids?).  I would have liked to have seen her called to the carpet a bit more for this, although there are some lovely scenes between her and her sister where this behavior is briefly called out.  I also think I needed a bit more of an involved ending.  It would be unrealistic for the author to give us a happy, happy rainbow ending (especially considering Alec's parents!), but given that Julia's daughter isn't wild about Alec for the entire story, a bit more of her starting to come around would have been nice.

Still, this was a nice story about two nice (and misunderstood) people who learn to work together and end up falling in love.  This was my first read from Harlequin's new Kiss line, and it was an enjoyable introduction.

Final Grade = B-


Nikki said...

This one sounds interesting, especially because it's the first in the Kiss line. I was wondering if there would be much difference in this line and the regular Harlequin line, which I don't read too much. I prefer the Presents and the Blaze, so I hope it's good. More series books for me!

Wendy said...

Nikki: This is the first Kiss book I've read (although I've got a couple more in the digital TBR), but taking this one book as an example? It's pretty similar to the Romance line - at least as far as sensuality/heat level. The characters have sex, but the bedroom door is firmly closed.

I'll need to read more to be sure, but I'm wondering if the Kiss line is meant to be "lighter?" Because while you can certainly get light, fun books in HR, there are some authors that write angst there as well (Donna Alward and Soraya Lane come to mind). Of course I'll need to read more Kiss books to get a better grasp on all of this.

nath said...

Sounds pretty interesting, Wendy! I'll have to check it out :)

Hmmm, I'm not sure Kiss is meant to be light. I read The One That Got Away (just reviewed it) and it definitively wasn't a fluffy, fun read... so I'm not sure what's up with the type of stories and the type of covers Harlequin is combining together ^_^;

Wendy said...

Nath: Yeah, I saw your review! The Romance line is a bit like that too - some books are light and fun, others have more angst. I definitely need to read more Kiss. Right now I'm just not seeing a huge difference between it and the regular Romance line - but my sample reading has been REALLY small thus far.....