|A strong story with a weak conclusion is like going on what you think is a hot date, then getting left with a handshake at the curb. Doesn’t matter how well everything went up until that point – all you remember afterward is the let-down.
After years of trying to prove herself in the family restaurant business (which she loves), Dani Buchanan was informed by Gloria, the irascible Buchanan matriarch, that she would never be part of the family empire. Dani was the result of an affair her mother had nearly three decades ago, and therefore not a “real Buchanan.”
Her father is probably Senator Mark Canfield, but when Dani tries to see him, she receives a very cold reception from his eldest son, Alex. Canfield is “exploring the possibility” of running for president, and a love-child from a relationship with a married woman, even though she’s deceased, will likely not help his chances. Alex assumes that Dani has ulterior motives and is determined to uncover them before they can hurt his family – personally or politically.
Canfield, however, takes one look at Dani and believes she is his daughter. While agreeing to the DNA test Alex insists on, Canfield invites Dani home to a family dinner that very evening. Although the idea makes Dani uncomfortable, Canfield insists that his wife Katherine (with whom he has adopted eight special needs children, including Alex) will not be fazed by the arrival of a child from a previous relationship.
In spite of his suspicions and the fact that she has sworn off men, Alex and Dani find themselves reluctantly attracted to each other. The situation is complicated further by Alex’s ex-wife, Fiona, who mistakenly believes that she can win him back, aided by her former mother-in-law.
This is a well-paced story, with interesting characters and a very complex – and well drawn – set of relationships. In addition to her growing awareness of Alex, which makes her a little uncomfortable, Dani is trying to find her place within the large and welcoming Canfield family and sort out the changing relationships within her own clan.
The author has done a nice job of showing how the appearance of Dani changes the dynamic within the Canfield household, and the rather cold realities of claiming a relationship with a high-profile politician. Although Dani tries to be sensitive to the effect her arrival might have on the Canfield family, with no experience of living in the public eye she did not anticipate the rabid interest of the press in her own life.
Naturally, the ripples affect the relationship between Mark and Katherine Canfield, as well, and the result is a low-key but appealing secondary romance.
Although perhaps not the most original characters in the romance pantheon, Dani and Alex are likeable and realistic. He’s a straight-up guy who loves and admires his adopted parents, adores his adopted siblings, and is dedicated to protecting his family. Dani is a tad generic, and verges on too good to be true – until she has a too-stupid-to-live moment near the end of the book. First, she believes what she’s told by someone she’s been told repeatedly is selfish and manipulative. It’s a frustrating moment for the reader, because it makes the romantic crisis feel cheap and fake. Never a good thing.
Then, believing that Alex is a rat bastard, she discovers she’s in love with him. Ouch. I’d have felt sorry for her if she’d decided she’d fallen for him first, but admitting her love after she ‘finds out’ he’s a lying pig just made her look stupid.
And, just in case the reader still has some sympathy for Dani, the author sends her into full martyr mode, deciding that she knows what’s best for everyone (without consulting any of them, naturally). It was annoying. It was disappointing. After that, I stopped caring.
It was a weak and irritating ending to what had been an enjoyable and entertaining read.
-- Judi McKee