In Secret Baby Santos, Barbara McCauley has created a successful romance, entertaining but never jarring the reader’s senses, though she veers a bit from reality occasionally.
Years ago, while residing in a group home, teenagers Lucas Blackhawk, Nick Santos and Ian Shawnessy bonded, swearing loyalty as they memorialized Lucas Blackhawk’s father. While Wolf River’s teenage girls were dreaming of close encounters with the terrifying trio, their parents had nightmares. After high school, the three left town, seeking fame and fortune. Barbara McCauley is bringing this trio home to Wolf River, Texas, one-by-one.
Bad-boy-gone-good Lucas Blackhawk came home in Sweet Revenge in which secondary character Nick Santos played a large role. Sweet Baby Santos, the second book in the trilogy, expands on Nick’s story.
Nick has returned to Wolf River to attend the wedding of Lucas and Julianna Hadley. Nick’s racing career has been lucrative. Now he can afford to “retire” and open a repair shop for motorcycle aficionados. Loyal and helpful to his friends, responsible and hard-working, excellent with children, kind to strangers, polite to the elderly, and of course, easy on the eyes, this man views a house with a picket fence and does not run in the opposite direction. After creating this irresistible male, the author presents him to her heroine. What could possibly go wrong?
Margaret Jane Smith-Hamilton has come home, too, but just briefly. A divorced journalist devoted to her four-year-old son, Drew, Maggie is home for a few weeks to help her parents, while her father recovers from surgery. Though shy as a girl, Maggie has experience beyond the confines of Wolf River. Her boss calls her frequently begging her to return to the office. Each time the boss calls, Maggie is reminded how much she wants to escape the rat race. What is stopping her?
Maggie wants to return to Wolf River to be near her parents as she raises her young son. But seeing Nick Santos after five years leaves her pale and shaky -- and not just because the encounter with her teenage crush results in the destruction of the green-bean display in the vegetable aisle of the local supermarket. She has bumped into the father of her child.
If you can suspend reality and accept a one-night stand in a darkened room, intimacy between a savvy celebrity and a shy, virgin who has harbored fantasies about a bad boy from her past -- the leap of faith necessary to enjoy Nick and Maggie’s story-- the rest will fall into place easily. Maggie has to learn to bring her secret home along with her son and her other baggage.
Barbara McCauley does wonders with secondary characters that have just enough presence in the story, in particular Drew and Maggie’s invalid dad who winds up out on the street wearing a sign begging passersby for whiskey and a cigar. Unfortunately, while a male paragon, Nick is a rather two-dimensional character. Nick behaves similarly to his role in the Blackhawk story; so there is little room for character development in his own story.
While Secret Baby Santos can stand alone, Blackhawk’s Sweet Revenge is definitely worth reading first. Then, like me, you will soon be scanning local bookstores for the final installment, Killian’s Passion. By the end of Secret Baby Santos, McCauley has the audience eager to read the final installment in this trilogy. Therein lies the secret to what I hope will be many years of success for her in this genre.