Mistress & a Million Dollars

Valente’s Baby
by Maxine Sullivan
(Silh. Desire #1949, $4.75, R)  ISBN 978-0373-76949-0
This is a familiar story: one-night stand leads to pregnancy to baby to sudden discovery of fatherhood. It is also familiar that one of the people involved is rich and has all the power over the other. And it is equally familiar that the other person agrees to a marriage of convenience in order to protect the child. Even with the familiarity, Valente’s Baby is a solid story.

The woman is Lana Jensen, a one-time employee of the House of Valente, a company that makes perfume. She is an accountant and worked closely with Matthew Valente, one of the sons of the Valente dynasty. But one year at the company Christmas party, she got a little tipsy, and ended up making love to Matthew on the floor of his office with no protection. Oh, she lied and said she had it covered, but nine months later, her daughter Megan was born. By this time, Lana had moved on to another firm. She steered clear of Matthew and his family, which was easy since they moved in completely different circles.

Matthew heard about Lana and her baby, who looks just like him, from his father, Cesare, who saw them out at the park. Cesare did some investigating and discovered that Matthew’s name is on the birth certificate. He found out more, but Matthew didn’t want to hear it. He is furious.  Lana had left the agency before he could pursue his suspicions that she had been embezzling $50,000. He had the proof (or rather the evidence) that pointed to her, but since she left, he just let her go. After all, he was embarrassed about their little escapade, even though it had been great sex.

Matt confrontes Lana, who can do nothing but admit that Megan is his, but she adamantly refutes his claim about her theft. She has some secrets, but they have nothing to do with embezzlement. Matt threatens Lana with both taking the child and with pursuing charges if she doesn’t follow his idea – a marriage of convenience for one year. This would establish Megan’s Valente heritage and cement her future. Lana agrees, only with the stipulation that she be allowed to return to work part-time to find out who really stole the money.

The next 100 pages follow all the old formulas – first no sex then lust and finally consummation. Lana trying to hold back with his family, knowing their relationship is temporary, but the family fully embracing her and not letting her remain unattached. Megan wins the heart of her playboy father, who gives up his unsettled life and really sinks his teeth into fatherhood.  Finally Matt and Lana fall into love even as they have to fight through some misunderstandings.

In thinking about this story, what set it apart and made it work is Sullivan’s writing style, which pulled the emotions from the characters and helped the reader empathize. She built the case for both sides of the story and then took the reader on the journey as the two worked out their issues. There is good balance between the two people and neither is completely right or completely wrong. That is so refreshing. 

If you have read the other Valente tales, Matt’s brothers are brought in to play a role and his parents also are prominent secondary characters. But if you have not, this story stands alone much better than most series ending stories. 

Valente’s Baby is an engaging but very familiar story. 

--Shirley Lyons

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