About That Man

After Tex

Along Came Trouble

Amazing Gracie

The Backup Plan

The Cowgirl and the Unexpected Wedding

Destiny Unleashed

Flamingo Diner

Flirting With Disaster

A Love beyond Words

Michaelís Discovery


The Unclaimed Baby

Feels Like Family
by Sherryl Woods
(Mira, $6.99, G) ISBN 0-7783-2436-2
The third book in the Sweet Magnolia series is a nice story and would have rated higher had I been familiar with the series. But there is a lot I didnít get at first and it took a while to figure out who all the players were. Once that was done, the story flowed and the romance between Helen and Erik took center stage.

Helen Decatur is the overachiever of three friends who make up the Sweet Magnolias. There is Maggie, who runs a spa that the three co-own and who is pregnant with her fifth child. Then we have Dana Sue, who runs her own restaurant. Helen is the lawyer in the group, specializing in divorces and helping women. She is also forty-two and unmarried. Her biological clock is ticking and she is coming to realize how much she wants a family and how difficult it will be since she doesnít even have a boyfriend.

Erik Whitney is a bit of a mystery. He is the pastry chef and all around second in command at Dana Sueís restaurant. Erik has been with Dana Sue for a little while now, having come highly recommended from the Atlanta Culinary Institute. He and Helen are friends, although not close friends. Prior to taking the job with Dana Sue, Erik was an EMT. He quit when his wife died from hemorrhaging while giving birth in the ambulance. He couldnít save her and despite everyone telling him he did everything right, he blames himself for her death and that of their child.

Needless to say, Erik wants nothing to do with opening up his heart to that kind of loss again, either with a wife or a child. He and Helen are attracted though, and he canít fight that. Thinking that she is with him in the no commitment zone, they start having an affair. With just a twinge of guilt Helen tells him not to worry about birth control Ė she has it covered. Actually what she has is the hope of getting pregnant. She figures she can afford it on her own and he wonít have any involvement so it should be no skin off his nose. But she doesnít know Erikís history. The conflict is set.

There are many side stories in this tale. There are follow-up stories started in previous books and readers of the series will see how everything turns out for everyone. Karen is a sous chef at the restaurant and her story about dealing with two small babies and a romance with an athletic trainer from the spa is interesting. There is Tess, who is fighting with immigration over the legality of her husbandís visa. And finally there is the danger to Helen from a nasty divorce case.

Woods has a writing style that feels homey and friendly. You just know this is the kind of town and friends you would want to have. After a false start on the tale, I did finally get engaged and did keep coming back. The meat of the story is Helen and Erikís romance. They are both likable and worthy of the hero/heroine titles. The side stories are a nice addition, although Karen probably had enough going on to star in her own story.

Feels Like Family does read like a happy reunion while the highlight is the romance between two friends. Their story is touching and easy to read. Fans of the series will find this a more than satisfactory ending. Others, like me, will just find a nice romance to pass the time.

--Shirley Lyons

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