A Convenient Proposal

A Daughter's Place

The Fourth Child

Matthew’s Children
by C.J. Carmichael
(Harl. Super #1506, $5.50, PG)  ISBN 0373-71506-4
Romance at work is often an easy plot line to use, but is tricky to get right.  Add in a divorced dad with children and you have some mines to maneuver around to keep the tale romantic. Matthew’s Children is one of those stories that clearly teeter on the line. 

Jane Prentice and Matthew Gray are attorneys in the same law firm. They are junior partners with the same aspiration: to become a senior partner when one of the founding attorneys retires. Jane has dedicated her life to her work and she is known as a smart and darned good defense attorney. She is also unable to have children and combined with her bad luck with men has stayed single into her thirties.

Matthew, on the other hand, married a woman who he thought was his soul mate.  Matthew and Gillian had two beautiful children, Derrick age 13 and Violet age 5. About a year ago, they separated and their divorce has just become final. Matt has been struggling to realize that he put his work before his family and this was a large reason the marriage failed. He is determined to spend more time with Violet and to re-establish his relationship with Derrick. He is also bound and determined to explore a relationship with Jane. There are a couple of barriers standing in his way.

First, he and Jane were close colleagues and that led his ex-wife to accuse him of having an affair with her. While he has always been attracted to Jane, he never violated his vows. Sadly, Gillian made a scene and the rumor of their relationship got started at the firm. In response he and Jane rarely have had any contact both on and off the job. 

The firm has just agreed to help a new client, one who asked for Matt. The partners however, knew it was Jane’s turn for this type of case, so they assigned them to work together. The case involved Derrick’s soccer coach, Wally Keller, and a sister of one of the boys on the team, who accused him of sexual assault. Needless to say, this divided the community and when people found out that Matt was going to defend Wally, both Gillian and Derrick turned away from him.

Another barrier is Jane herself. She was totally embarrassed at the accusation a year ago and is determined to keep apart from Matt. She struggles constantly with her need to do her job and her desire to have Matt as a lover. Matt realizes that they need to keep things quiet if they do start a relationship; he realizes that Derrick shows he hates Jane in every way and yet, their attraction and sparks are just too much to ignore.

The story was well paced and had a good mix of the case with the lives of the two attorneys. Matt’s anxiety seemed genuine and Derrick seemed to experience many things one would expect from an adolescent whose parents are splitting and holding some animosity towards each other. Jane is one character who was more distant. She alludes to her secret and yet hides her emotions so well; it was difficult to feel whatever angst she was dealing with. Her reactions range from very mature to highly immature. Matt seems to drink a lot, or at least starts to drown his sorrows a lot. I felt the ending a bit rushed and never really fully connected to their need to be together.

Matthew’s Children is basically a decent story and a nice romance.  This is the second in a series about Matt and his brothers. There were enough positive things in this tale that I would pick up Nick’s upcoming story if given a chance.

--Shirley Lyons

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