Let me start right off by saying that I might not have enjoyed Joan Kilby’s Child of His Heart quite so much if I weren’t living with a nine-year-old with a wicked mouth on her. My sympathy with Nick Dalton and his problems with his twelve-going-on-twenty-years-old daughter, Miranda, kept me turning the pages of Child of His Heart.
Then again, I might have enjoyed Ms. Kilby’s story anyway. She took a much-used set-up and handled it deftly and touchingly, avoiding many of the pitfalls that have trapped others. Ms. Kilby found obstacles for her lovers to overcome that did not include a misunderstanding; her secondary characters are fully rounded, flawed people; and the interactions of her three principal characters were, with one possible exception, convincing.
Two years before the story starts, Nick Dalton’s wife died, victim of a hit-and-run. As she was dying and in and out of consciousness, she confessed that she had had an affair around the time she got pregnant with Miranda. Was Nick Miranda’s biological father? His dying wife wasn’t sure.
Two years later, Nick is sure of one thing: he has to get Miranda out of Los Angeles and away from the high schoolers she is hanging out with. He takes a job as fire chief in Hainesville, Washington, a very small town. Miranda is furious and takes revenge by being as miserable as an intelligent, angry twelve-year-old girl can be…and that is very miserable indeed. Not even the opportunity to live on a houseboat - something I would have loved at twelve - reconciles her to Hainesville.
At the same time, in nearby Seattle, Erin Hanson has just handed her engagement ring back to her fiancé. In her heart, she thinks everything will work out between John and herself, but for right now she can’t handle another postponement of their wedding date. When her sister calls and says that their grandmother has had a heart attack and needs care, Erin impulsively quits her job as a loan manager for a Seattle bank and returns to Hainesville to stay until her grandmother is well.
Once in Hainesville, Erin lands on her feet. Her grandmother has found her a position as assistant manager of the local bank, her sister Kelly is relieved that someone is around to watch over their ailing grandmother, and she has met the hunky new fire chief. The only fly in the ointment is that she seems to be coming down with the flu, although her only symptom is nausea.
Any moderately experienced romance reader would know immediately that Erin has the Pregnancy Flu, even if the book’s title (and cover) didn’t spell it out. You can’t come up with a much more clichéd plot than that of the unwed mother and the man who is willing to rescue her even though he’s not the father. Two factors sustained my interest in a plot that could have been boilerplate. On one hand, Nick already has a child that may not be his, and he is understandably very reluctant to repeat the experience. On the other hand, Erin’s ability to smooth over some of his problems with his prickly daughter brings them together and intensifies his initial attraction. The genuine conflicts that arose from interaction of these factors captured my interest and held it, as did Ms. Kilby’s portrayals of ordinary people caught in an unordinary situation.
I did question the promises Erin Hanson made to her fiancé and to Miranda and the lengths she went to not to break them. In both cases, her refusal to renegotiate her promise began to seem like a device to spin out the conflict rather than a rational choice. Good writing, excellent characterization, and some memorable scenes overcame this plotting deficiency, however, and I closed Child of His Heart with a sigh and a little tear. Not a bad recommendation, that.
--Nancy J. Silberstein