Man of the House by Felicia Mason,
Adrianne Byrd and Doris Johnson
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-7860-524-6
****
Man of the House is Arabesque's first Father's Day anthology. It's a warm and fuzzy collection of strong tales about three everyday guys – Quentin, Greg and Michael and their relationships with their children and lovers. The authors have created straightforward stories that I think will appeal to both men and women.

"The Dreamers" by Felicia Mason is the story of long-haul trucker Quentin Knight whose dreams of love, happiness and a career as a surgeon were destroyed when a drunk driver killed his pregnant wife in an automobile accident.

Quentin is duty bound. He copes with raising the young daughter who was born the day his wife died. Each birthday is a painful reminder of his loss. Quentin also heads the family trucking business his father has been unable to run due to Alzheimer's disease. He helps his mother deal with his father's condition and supports his brother in medical school. Quentin strains to be all things to all people . . . except the daughter who needs him most.

Tour guide Sun White Cloud enters his life, bringing sunshine, perspective and dreams of her own. After a brief internal and external struggle, Quentin accepts Sun's love, reaches out to his daughter and begins to live again.

"One in a Million" begins as Gregory Woods and Whitney Jackson meet summer semester at Georgia State University and became inseparable. They were engaged . . . to other people. After a brief romantic interlude, they parted at the end of the summer to resume their lives in other parts of the country.

The story resumes ten years later. Greg has fulfilled his dreams of becoming a successful architect. Whitney, unknown to Greg, has given birth to his son, Demetrius.

Greg and Whitney never married their respective fiancés. They never contacted one another. And they never forgot about the short-lived love they shared.

When Demetrius needs a lifesaving bone marrow transplant, Whitney is forced to tell Greg about his son and ask for his help. Greg and Whitney have that one-in-a-million chance at happiness delayed.

Doris Johnson's "Father at Heart" is the story of social worker Jeanne Grayson and accountant Michael Kingsford. The two met at a health club and were immediately attracted to each other. After a false start and a brief misunderstanding, they build a strong relationship.

As Michael is about to propose to Jeanne, he learns that his 17-year-old son, Bruce, is coming to live with him – soon. Father and son have never met and until recently were unaware of each other's existence. Bruce was conceived when Michael and his mother were teenagers. Michael had been told that his son had been given up for adoption.

But Bruce was raised by his natural mother in California and later adopted by her wealthy husband. A boating accident kills his adopted father and maternal grandparents and his mother is permanently incapacitated. Bruce gets to live with Michael for the six-month period before he begins college. What Michael gets is a rich, resentful teenager.

At this point, Jeanne and Michael's relationship take a back seat to the father-son relationship. The author is skillfully able to balance the two and maintain the integrity of the basic romance.

As any romance reader knows, anthologies can be a mixed bag. The selection of authors and/or collection of stories often fail to come together as a cohesive unit. Or, the promise of the premise is never fulfilled.

However, Man of the House is a pleasant collection of tender second-chance stories about men who have room in their hearts to love both children and a good woman.

It's definitely worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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