The Millionaire and the Mom
by Patricia Kay
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1387, $4.50, G) ISBN 0-373-24387-1
****
Why is it I never had a man worth $50 million show up on my doorstep and want to help with the housework? Life just isn't fair. The Millionaire and the Mom is the fourth book in the Stockwells of Texas series, but the first one I have read.

Jake Stockwell, ex-mercenary and eldest son of the Stockwell empire, has a mission. Find out if his ancestors really cheated the Johnsons out of their family lands, and if so, make retribution. After his father Caine dies, Jake goes off to find any proof he can about his father's shady dealings.

What Jake finds is widow Beth Johnson. Beth is barely keeping her head above water, supporting two young children after the death of her alcoholic wastrel of a husband Eben Johnson. She's also trying to recover from a tornado that wreaked havoc on her beloved rose farm. A stranger named Jake arrives and offers to work for room and board. Despite her misgivings, Beth is desperate enough to accept. Jake soon finds himself wanting to be part of Beth's life, regardless of his original assignment.

Beth is a very appealing heroine, strong and independent without being abrasive. Kay does a great job making Beth and her choices believable. A good example of this is when Beth is contemplating the wisdom of letting a total stranger work for her. Beth freely admits that if Jake had been an unattractive man she probably wouldn't have done it. It's refreshing to have a heroine so honest with herself.

Also refreshing is Beth’s response to Jake's suggestion that the Stockwells might owe her money. Rather than just being blindly prideful, Beth gives an excellent reason for wanting to work things out herself. Beth explains that her husband Eben had been fed the rumors about the Stockwells all his life, and so always felt the world owed him something. The sense of entitlement brought about disappointment and alcoholism. Beth doesn't want that to happen to her or her children. It was a very realistic reaction.

In comparison to Beth, Jake is a nice hero, but nothing outstanding. He lies to Beth from the outset, but it's forgivable. Thankfully he doesn't fall into one of the rich hero stereotypes, such as the spoiled playboy or the dark, emotionally unavailable man. He is compassionate, open and genuinely eager to help with no strings attached. His past as a mercenary is alluded to a few times, but never really explained, I assume it's discussed in one of the earlier books in the series.

Most of the story is fairly predictable. On page eight the reader is told that Caine always despised his eldest son, favoring the other children over him. Although Jake has gotten over that, he never knew the reason despite living at least thirty years. The average romance reader would have it figured out by the end of the sentence.

There are no surprises in The Millionaire and the Mom but it was well-written and enjoyable. I finished it in one day and wouldn't mind picking up the earlier books to find out about the rest of the Stockwells.

--Anne Buline


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