|Cox has written an enjoyable sophomore effort with Unexpected Daughter. This story has good characters, a decent plotline (although the secret pregnancy thing is a bit overused) and the story moves along nicely.
Brijette Dupre was born on the wrong side of the tracks in Cypress Landing, Louisiana. She fell in love with a rich man’s son as a teenager and ended up pregnant. Due to one small mistake of carrying a package for someone, she was arrested on drug charges and spent three months in juvenile detention. Not knowing she was pregnant, Cade Wheeler believed his mother when she told him that Brijette had just used him and even asked her for money to stay away from her son. He moved back to Dallas and went on to become a doctor. The truth was that Brijette took the money that Mrs. Wheeler gave to her, but that money was not asked for - it had been offered by Mrs. Wheeler. She told Brijette that Cade hated her and wanted her to get an abortion. Knowing she could never destroy her child, Brijette took the money so she could get her education and provide for her baby. She even doctored the birth certificate to protect her daughter from the Wheelers.
It is now ten years later and Dylan is a delightful child. Brijette lives in Cypress Landing and is known as a friendly, caring nurse practitioner. She works in a clinic with Cade’s uncle, who has had little contact with Cade since he was a teenage. She spends one day a week in the bayou, traveling to small villages where there are no doctors and people are leery of coming to the “big town.” She is active in the local search and rescue unit due to the uncanny tracking skills she learned as a child living in the swamps. But now, Doc Wheeler needs heart surgery and he has asked Cade to take over the clinic during his recuperation.
As one might expect, there are complications. Brijette is ever fearful that Cade will discover her secret. She has been keeping the truth from Dylan too, and is fearful of her reaction. Cade still has feelings for Brijette, but has unresolved feelings about her callousness in just dumping him when she needed his money. Just when they have settled on an uneasy working relationship/truce, there is a series of crimes that involve prescriptions being written for narcotics on the clinics pads. Due to her past, Brijette comes under suspicion. Things heat up when she is roughed up during one of her visits to the bayou and threatened.
Cox has an easy to read style and helps the reader keep up by switching from character to character in a manner that allows the whole picture to be developed. We know how Cade is struggling and how much he is still drawn to Brijette. We see Brijette fight her attraction, primarily because she knows once her secret is out, both Cade and Dylan will hate her for her lying. Once the secret is revealed, we see Dylan, a ten year old, find a friend in the new doctor, who has turned out to be her father, and struggle with her feelings about her mom’s secrets. It is painful to read because the feelings portrayed are real – yet there is optimism that all can work out because these people seem like real people. They act sensibly and work hard to try to explain their feelings. There is healing that just doesn’t happen overnight. The small steps towards reconciliation are realistic, making the story stronger.
The mystery about the prescription drugs is a bit contrived but it does provide the conflict needed to move the story along. The relationships and the romance are what really keep the reader engaged and are the main reasons that Unexpected Daughter gets a recommendation from this reviewer.