provided this disclaimer before on Anderson's work, but forgot to add it here. We presented a workshop together at RWA 2014 (9/8/15)
I tend to be fairly anal retentive when it comes to reading mystery/suspense series in order. Romance series? Another kettle of fish entirely. My TBR is the graveyard where all third books in trilogies go to die. Or, as in the case with Sarah M. Anderson's Beaumont Heirs series for Harlequin Desire, I read the books completely out of order. Having already read books two and three, I figured maybe it was time to, oh I don't know, actually read the first book in the series.
Not The Boss's Baby kicks off the series featuring heir to the family brewing (as in beer) dynasty, Chadwick Beaumont. Before he was out of diapers, Chadwick was being groomed to take over the family brewing business, and he's the fourth generation to run the company. Chadwick basically works for the family. To keep his wastrel brother Phillip in race horses and his sister Frances afloat after her various entrepreneurial ventures go belly up. But this burning the candle at both ends is taking it's toll. He's in the middle of the longest divorce in the history of the world, his soon-to-be-ex-wife determined to bleed every last penny out of him. Then there's the fact that the brewery is dodging buy-out demands left and right. Chadwick cannot fathom selling the family business, but others on the board aren't nearly as loyal. So the guy has a lot on his mind, which means acting on his attraction to his personal assistant is probably not the best idea - not only right now, but ever.
Serena Chase broke up with her longtime boyfriend three months ago and...she's pregnant. Being pregnant with her ex's baby isn't exactly joyous news for reasons besides the obvious. Serena grew up in a very hand-to-mouth world. Her parents loved each other, but let's just say family finances were extremely fluid. Serena is the type of girl who banks her generous holiday bonuses, buys clothes second hand and clips coupons - not because Chadwick doesn't pay her well, but because Serena knows first hand what it's like to lack financial security. So now she's going to be a single mother and her very stable job may go bye-bye if Chadwick cannot save the brewery from a buy-out. So acting on her attraction to her boss right now? I mean, despite the fact that she helped craft the company's fraternization policy? Yeah, not a good idea.
But we all know where this is going right? "Not a good idea" doesn't mean much in a romance novel. As if this weren't enough conflict floating around, Chadwick is haunted by the specter of his long-dead father. The kind of guy who exchanged wives every other Christmas and had numerous affairs, um - including with his various secretaries. Chadwick is so hung up on not being "just like Dad," that he has shoe-horned himself into a life where he does exactly the opposite, except of course running the family business. That's one thing Dad definitely wanted and one thing he never allowed Chadwick to forget.
I've read a lot of Anderson's books and she has three speeds for me: 1) The Awesome 2) The Good and 3) The OK. This one falls under #2. It's good, but not great. What it does well, it does very well - namely setting up the series. While the various Beaumont siblings do scream Sequel Bait! the author at least introduces them in a compelling manner (at a charity gala) and includes just enough of their baggage to whet the appetite for future books (uh, of which I've already read two). I also liked that the author touched on the class issues between Serena and Chadwick, illustrating that while they both grew up very differently, that doesn't necessarily mean they didn't have their own challenges. Chadwick had security, but not love. Serena had love, but not security.
Where the story stumbles for me is mostly related to the Desire word count. Chadwick's ex-wife is cookie-cutter harpy, although there's a brief glimmer where you actually feel sorry for her (and then she opens her mouth and you go right back to thinking she's vile - oh well). There's also the small matter of the romance, which moves quickly. I get that Chadwick and Serena have been working together for years, but working together and proposing marriage within the span of a few weeks is another matter entirely. I actually think this would have worked better for me if Chadwick still wasn't in the middle of his divorce proceedings. The marriage is definitely over (it's been over a year since the papers were filed), but it's another piece of very big conflict looming over the happy ending. And as stated above - there's already a lot of conflict to go around in a story that clocks in at less than 200 pages.
All quibbles aside, I did enjoy this quite a bit. It sets up the series nicely, and given Daddy's promiscuous ways, Anderson can keep this series going for a while. While I unabashedly love the boss-secretary trope (I know, I know - I'm part of the problem), the pregnant-by-another is a bit of a harder sell for me. But it all works here, despite some abbreviated moments because, you know, category word count. This series has been pretty solid so far, and now I'm actually at that moment in time where I can read the rest of them in order. Will wonders never cease?
Final Grade = B