Unexpected Family
by Molly O’Keefe
(Harl. Super #1783, $5.50, PG) ISBN 978-0373-71783-5
When two people have the sparks that Jeremiah Stone and Lucy Alatore have, it is difficult to ignore. But when these two people are carrying around the burdens they have, it is hard to see the trees, let alone the forest. But if you are looking for a satisfying romance when all is said and done, Unexpected Family will deliver.

Jeremiah Stone is an ex-rodeo champion recuperating from a possible career ending injury when his sister got cancer and died, leaving him the guardian of three young boys. Aaron is just entering the teen years, Ben is a sullen and sad nine year old and Casey an energetic five year old. Their dad was killed in an auto accident a few years earlier. With the support of both sets of grandparents, Jeremiah is determined but overwhelmed, especially when Ben starts acting out. Secret counseling sessions are all that is keeping Jeremiah from going completely crazy.

Lucy Alatore is a hometown girl who left after high school to make it rich in L.A. selling her custom jewelry. She was doing great until things got too big and she alienated her customer base when she tried to duplicate a special horse shoe shaped necklace. Mass production and customized one of kind pieces don’t mesh and she is in major debt and on the verge of bankruptcy. She is has returned to her “home.” The home is actually the ranch she grew up on owned by Walter and his son Jack, who is now married to Lucy’s sister Mia. Lucy’s mom and dad worked for Walter and lived in the foreman’s house on the ranch. There is a long back story about Walter and Lucy’s parents. Ultimately, this develops into a secondary love story that is a nice addition to the tale.

So Lucy and Jeremiah are attracted. But Lucy has this whole issue with her business and her life in L.A. that she is basically hiding from everyone and Jeremiah has major hang-ups with his grief for his past life, his sister and how he is going to be a good parent to these three boys. Molly O’Keefe manages to put a lot of angst into the story without making the reader feel that any of these characters are over-reacting to their circumstances.

Jeremiah is a guy who realizes the counseling is helping him, even though he struggles with finding the light at the end of the tunnel. Lucy recognizes she is hiding in Northern California when her life is literally falling apart in L.A. She also resents that she failed and is embarrassed that at some point she will have to tell everyone of her failure. Walter is an alcoholic and Lucy’s mom is hiding a secret about her marriage, that once she comes clean, will allow her to see that she has a future too.

Unexpected Family is not a sweet simple story, but it is a story that ultimately delivers a satisfying romance and a family that will find its way to happiness in the end.

--Shirley Lyons

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