The Last Santini Virgin

Marine Under the Mistletoe

Dreamweaver

Just West of Heaven

Simply Magic

This Time for Keeps

When the Halo Falls

Wish Upon a Cowboy

 
Loving You by Maureen Child
(St. Martin’s, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-97844-8
***
Tasha Flynn is living a precarious existence - if her secret is exposed, her life will be ruined.

Once a homeless teenager, she had been rescued by the irrepressible Mimi Castle. Eventually she trained as a beautician and works in Mimi’s shop. (No, I haven’t confused this heroine with the one in Nicholas Sparks’ The Guardian.) Mimi had also taken in foster children. After the death of his mother two years ago, Jonas Baker had come to live with Mimi and Tasha. This family gave Tasha a sense of closeness and security she’d never known before. When Mimi died, Tasha feared Jonas would be taken away; Tasha’s background precludes her from becoming a foster parent. Tasha is desperate to conceal Mimi’s death so that Social Services will leave Jonas with her. She has been claiming that Mimi, always a free spirit, is on world travels. The regulars at the beauty shop have been sending postcards from around the world claiming to be from Mimi.

Nick Candellano was a highly visible professional football player with the San Jose Saints. A knee injury ended his career, and he is having a difficult time adjusting to a life as a low-image sports reporter on a local television channel. He is served papers giving notice that he is named as the father in a paternity suit. Nick knows he led a promiscuous life during his football days, but he was always careful to use protection.

Nick consults with his lawyer (the hero of Finding You), who tells him he’s being sued by Jonas Baker. An eleven-year-old whose mother is deceased, he is living with his foster mother Mimi Castle. Eventually Nick decides he’ll go see Jonas himself and tell him he couldn’t possibly his father. He is surprised to be met with such resistance by Tasha, but Jonas greets him with joy. Nick finds himself unable to firmly deny fatherhood in light of such faith from the boy.

Will Nick’s presence in their lives destroy Tasha’s and Jonas’s family?

Prolific author Maureen Child (who also writes as Kathleen Kane, Ann Carberry, and Sarah Hart) has penned the story of two people in search of a stable life. Loving You is a character-driven story. The plot line is uncomplicated with few unexpected twists on the way to happy ever after. I was even expecting the revelation at the end. What distinguishes Loving You is its character development, particularly Nick’s. Nick is experiencing an unwanted life change - his career, his social life, his very identity revolved around football. Now he’s feeling discarded and disoriented. If he’s not a football hero, what can he be?

Tasha has experienced the degradation of life on the streets. She’s desperate to keep Jonas with her because without him she’ll be all alone again. She doesn’t recognize Nick and is unimpressed with his fame. She’ll do almost anything to hide Mimi’s death, and this paternity suit threatens the worst kind of publicity.

The obvious solution - at least to the reader - is that Tasha and Nick fall in love and form a new family, but they are not clearly meant for each other. It takes some adjustment for both of them to recognize they need each other.

I have to mention some concerns regarding the subplot of deceiving everyone into believing Mimi was still alive: what about a death certificate and what’d they do with the body? There are laws concerning the disposal of human remains and they don’t involve a Hefty bag at the curb or the food freezer in the basement. Even a private family interment would involve some legal details, but other than Tasha, Jonas, and the regulars at the beauty parlor, everyone seems completely oblivious to the possibility that Mimi might have done her last styling job - curling up and dyeing. Tasha knows she cannot be a foster parent. Didn’t social services wonder why she was inquiring when she lives with Mimi? Since Mimi’s Social Security checks have continued coming (Tasha’s been banking them which has to involve some sort of illegality), there is a question of whether she’s been defrauding the government. Virgil may have stated that love conquers all, but he didn’t have to contend with the laws of the United States and the state of California.

Loving You is the third in a series of stories revolving around the Candellano family, and the family does have some role in the narrative. I had not read the previous two books, however, and did not feel at a loss.

If you’re looking for an easy read with strong characters, you might want to check out Loving You.

--Lesley Dunlap


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