I Now Pronounce You Mom & Dad
by Diana Whitney
(SSE 1261, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24261-1
I Now Pronounce You Mom & Dad is the first of three books comprising the cross line miniseries, ‘For the Children.' In September, Silhouette Romance 1392 will introduce A Dad of His Own. October's SSE 1276 is The Fatherhood Factor. What all the books appear to have in common is a fairy godmother type, here in the guise of attorney Clementine St. Ives, whose grandmotherly appearance belies her will of iron.

Lydia Farnsworth and Powell Greer haven't seen each other in six years. They've been called to the law office of Clementine St. Ives, who's representing four-year-old Kenny Houseman and his one-year-old sister, Tami. Their parents, who died in a car accident, named Lydia and Powell as the children's guardians. If Lydia and Powell don't agree to take the children, they'll be put in foster care.

The crafty lawyer adds another layer of guilt by advising Lydia and Powell to get married. That way they'll be able to convince a judge that the kids are in a stable, loving home. Clementine softens the blow by telling them that divorce is an option after the guardianship papers are finalized.

Knowing that there's no other choice, Lydia and Powell are married in Reno in a tacky ceremony. One of the witnesses loses his dentures, and the preacher's fly is unzipped. It's not an auspicious beginning for these two, who weren't able to sustain a relationship years ago. Considering that neither one of them has changed, this marriage is already on shaky ground.

As an investment banker who's an up and comer, Lydia is a goal-oriented person who believes in lists and structure. Outwardly she appears confident, but inside she's always had nagging doubts, secret fears. It's these doubts and fears that propel her to be the brightest and the best. Watching her deal with the children, trying to get them and Powell to comply with her time sheet, with its fifteen minute increments, is a charming lesson in reality. Also, watching her trying to work full-time from home and failing is an eloquent reminder that most of us aren't Superwoman.

Powell and Lydia are a study in contrasts. Powell has never been overly ambitious or career minded. His job as a telephone lineman is enjoyable but he's never felt that it defined his existence. Outwardly, Powell is likable-a good, dependable man. His hot button is his independence. He grew up seeing his dad give up everything he cared about for the sake of his family. Powell has vowed to remain emotionally detached, never to give a woman absolute control of his heart and his life. He equates freedom as the absence of responsibility, of controlling his own life. Of the two characters, Powell seems to be the weaker, the one unable to let go of past hurts. He keeps looking for a way out of the relationship.

This is an engrossing story, one that delves into the complexities of family dynamics. Kenny and Tami are fully-fashioned, strong secondary characters. Family dynamics is such a strong theme that it outweighs the romance aspect. It's charming and sweet to watch the grownups bond with the children. But it isn't romantic. Lydia's ban on sex is predictable; since the relationship isn't going anywhere, she's not going to sleep with Powell. They finally come to their senses, but I kept expecting the kids to pop in during the early morning intimacy scenes.

Two things keep me from recommending this story whole-heartedly. The first is that it takes most of the book for Powell and Lydia to realize a basic fact; it's okay to give up some of the rigid control they've had on their emotions. It takes far too long to accept that compromise won't be the ultimate traitorous act. The second reason is that this story has a broad focus, that of bonding and blending into a family unit. Yes, the story from this angle is quite good, but the emphasis on the family dilutes the romance. More time is spent watching Powell and Lydia become good parents than is spent watching them become friends and lovers.

If a wholesome story of four people meshing into a loving family is something that interests you, then grab this book. If you're not into the parenthood scene, then I Now Pronounce You Mom & Dad is a book you'll want to leave on the shelf. You'll recognize it. Little Tami is on the front cover.

--Linda Mowery

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