The Mommy School

The World's Best Dad
by Valerie Taylor
(Harl. American #816, $4.25, PG-13) 0-373-16816-0
Single mom Julie Miles is in desperate need of a dad -- and not any old dad, but possibly the world's best dad. She has adopted a five-year-old named Marisa, a child who has spent most her life bouncing from foster home to foster home. Though Julie was Marisa's guardian ad litem for four years, she feels she has zero parenting skills. A fantastic dad can help her fill in the blanks.

Lucky for her, Ben Harbison, a widower with a young son named Joe, lives next store. The problem is that Ben isn't exactly world's best dad material. He's struggling to figure out the parenting thing himself -- all under the watchful eye of his deceased wife's mother, who thinks Ben is an incompetent father.

The two children, Ben and Marisa, bond quickly, and soon Ben and Julie are doing their own bonding. But Julie realizes that Ben, while sexy and handsome, doesn't really fit her requirements for a good dad. While he loves Joe unconditionally, in one instance he forgets to pay attention while Joe and Marisa play in the backyard. The two children end up leaving the yard to find their way to a playground. Julie places his name at the bottom of the list of candidates she thinks would make good dads -- a list she leaves hanging around her house.

Julie sets out to capture the hearts of single male parenting experts, but in each case her plan backfires. The first guy, much to Ben's disgust, is a stuffed shirt, and Julie quickly decides that this "expert" doesn't know a thing about kids. The second expert, who turns out to be perfect daddy material, ends up falling for Julie's best friend. But by this point, Julie and Ben are beginning to see that maybe what they're looking for is living right next door.

The World's Best Dad was well written and funny in spots, but as a romance it didn't engage me. Ben and Julie were the flattest, most uninteresting characters in the book, and their romance was forgettable. I think this happened because the two children and their problems ended up dominating the scenes. Taylor's secondary characters were warm, funny, and engaging, but again, this highlighted how flat and boring the hero and heroine were in contrast.

I can only offer a lukewarm recommendation for this book based on its lack of romantic spark. However, if you like your romances light on romance but with lots of cute kid antics, then this novel may be just what you're looking for.

--Diana Burrell

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