After the Fire

Code of Honor

A Christmas Legacy

Cop of the Year

Count on Me

Feel the Heat

Finally a Family

The Fire Within

The Man Who
Loved Christmas

On the Line

Practice Makes Perfect

Promises to Keep

Trust in Me

Our Two Sons by Kathryn Shay
(Harl. Super. #1253, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-71253-7
Professor Jacelyn Ross, head of the Businesss Department at Beckett College, doesn’t have much use for jocks. However, to make her nineteen-year-old son happy, she’s agreed to try and get an autograph from NFL legend Mike King, who is at Beckett for the summer as a coach with the Buckland Bulls training camp. Mike, who doesn’t give autographs, mistakes Jacey for a pushy coed (though she’s forty-three; I want to know what kind of moisturizer this woman uses). Jacey’s impression of Mike as an arrogant numbskull is affirmed by their encounter.

The two later meet at a faculty event, and soon they are drawn together over their sons. Kyle, the teenager, is a gifted pianist with a future at Juilliard. Little Tyler, Mike’s son, has recently lost his mother and Mike is a full-time dad for the first time in his life. When Kyle offers to watch Tyler during the days, it’s inevitable that Jacey and Mike will be pushed together, and their mutual attraction is difficult to ignore. But Jacey fears her reputation will be damaged if they slip into an affair, and she’s not sure that the training camp – and the new Sports Studies program – is good for Beckett College.

Mike is interested in Jacey, even though she’s a bit older than he is, but she’s acting like he’s a dumb jock – an image he’s been saddled with all his life. Her ex-husband’s overbearing, if not downright hostile, treatment of Kyle brings out Mike’s protective instincts, though, and he finds himself slipping into a father role for both boys. When Kyle decides music isn’t the career he wants to choose, things get even more rocky.

Mike was a great hero, and sympathetic as all get out. Here’s a decent, warmhearted fellow who wants to be a good dad, treats the new woman in his life like a princess, and all the while wonders if he’s good enough for her. What’s not to like? Jacey, on the other hand, was far less likable. Her prejudice against athletes doesn’t seem to be founded on anything. In fact, she married a music professor who is a class A jerk for the entire story, and she’s currently dating another stereotypical academic snob, so one has to wonder why she wouldn’t jump at the chance to get together with somebody down-to-earth. In a nutshell, she’s a snob herself when it comes to Mike’s career, and it takes her far too long to wake up. The conflict in this story mainly revolves around Jacey’s prejudices.

The ex-husband was the most problematic element of this story. He’s a complete ass, and his behavior is so over-the-top that it’s straight out of Central Casting for Bad Dads. This just begs the question of what Jacey ever saw in him, and why on earth she can’t stand up to him. Jacey’s inability to do anything but get flustered around her ex leads to the big dark moment in the story, and it’s more exasperating than anything else. We’re told Jacey is smart and sexy and all that, but readers are more likely to wish she’d just grow some spine and tell the ex to go to hell.

Kathryn Shay’s heroines are usually much stronger than this. Oddly, there’s a sense that the author wasn’t quite comfortable with Jacey, either – there were flashes of spirit in Jacey that felt squelched, as though the author were longing to let her heroine pick up a frying pan and start making her point upside the ex’s head. While Our Two Sons is written in the same clean style as her other works, the lead characters are a mismatch and don’t make for a memorable romance.

--Cathy Sova

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