Mr. Elliott Finds a Family
by Susan Floyd
(Harl. Super. #919, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70919-6
****
Mr. Elliott Finds a Family begins with Beth Ann Bellamyís discovery that her half sister, Carrie, has left her ten day old daughter, Bernadette, in Beth Annís care and returned to her husband, Christian. Two years later, Beth Ann is now awaiting the finalization of adoption proceedings for Bernie. Beth Annís life has changed a lot in these last two years. She suddenly became a mother, gave up her career as an artist, now provides care for Iris, her stepgrandmother, who has Alzheimerís disease, and has dealt with the grief over Carrieís death eighteen months before, and the anxiety that Christian would show up any day to take Bernie away from her.

Then, out of the blue, Christian does contact Beth Ann and wants to meet with her. However, before he arrives, Iris slips into one of her disoriented episodes and runs away from home into the foggy morning. Beth Ann quickly grabs Bernie and gives chase in her beat-up truck, but doesnít arrive before a luxury car nearly slams into Iris. This is essentially Christianís introduction to Beth Annís ragtag family that includes Bernie, Iris, and her two best friends Fred and Glenn, a gay married couple.

Once they all return to Beth Annís home, Christianís purpose for visiting is revealed. As CEO of a major corporation and executor of Carrieís estate, Christian has come to tell Beth Ann that Bernie is now the owner of a large software company, DirectTech, as was decreed by Carrieís will. It is soon apparent to Beth Ann that Christian knows nothing about Bernie or the fact that Carrie gave birth. She knew Carrie traveled a lot, but how could a husband not know his wife was pregnant?

Christian comes from a wealthy family and is wealthy in his own right. He soon discovered in his brief marriage that although he loved Carrie, his wealth and power was the attraction for Carrie. While he hid behind his work to deny problems in his marriage, Carrie took extended vacations around the world. She had refused to have children because pregnancy would ruin her figure and so they existed as two adults with separate lives. It was clear that Carrie had kept many secrets from him and he wants to know what they were and why.

Beth Ann tries to convince Christian that Bernie will not need a software company and his presence is no longer required. However, before she can convince him of this, Christian learns that Beth Ann has a chance to make a comeback in her career. All she needs to do is find time to paint. Not an easy task when caring for a two-year-old toddler and an older woman with Alzheimerís. Christian, who happens to be on a forced vacation by order of his doctor, volunteers to care for Bernie and Iris for a couple of weeks while Beth Ann paints. Christian uses this time as a way of learning the answers to Carrieís other secrets and as a way to get to know Carrieís child. This arrangement works so well that they keep extending the length of time Christian stays, until someone threatens to burst the bubble of happiness surrounding them.

This arrangement also allows Beth Ann and Christianís relationship to deepen from feelings of guilt and wariness to respect and love. Their common bond of loving someone who doesnít know how to love them in return makes their union so much sweeter.

I found Christianís early attempts at childcare funny and enjoyable, and he further proved himself in the tenderness and care he showed Iris. That having been said, I find it very hard to believe that a man who had lived alone most of his life would suddenly volunteer to take on the care of two needy individuals when he has no idea of what that care involves. I also question Beth Annís acquiescence to allow the care of Bernie and Iris to be turned over to a virtual stranger. The same stranger she had earlier thought would take Bernie away from her.

What truly makes this book are the secondary characters. Two of the most unique characters Iíve ever found in a romance are Fred and Glenn, Beth Annís gay best friends. Without these two, her family would have fallen apart two years before. They acted as surrogate fathers to Bernie and sons to Iris, as well as being Beth Annís support system. I found Bernieís character to be precocious and adorable, and Iris to be fragile and wise. Even Carrieís specter-like presence throughout the book acts as a secondary character, propelling other characterís reactions.

A minor quibble is the ending, which is a bit rushed with the loose ends wrapped up just a little too neatly. Though not a seductive romance, Mr. Elliott Finds a Family is still entertaining and enjoyable. Readers who prefer love rather than the sex in their books will particularly enjoy reading this book.

--Kristy Hales


@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home