The Boss & the Beauty

Adopted Dad by Donna Clayton
(Silh. Romance #1417, $3.50, G) 0-373-17417-X
I decided to hold off on writing this review until a few days passed. I enjoyed reading Adopted Dad, but was curious to see whether the book "stuck with me." It did.

Ethan Kimball is a successful computer consultant who hears his clock ticking when he sees the faces of orphaned children in the war-torn country of Kyrcznovia on television. The Kyrcznovian government gives him permission to adopt a beautiful 14-month-old girl named Sona, but when he arrives at the adoption center to pick up his new daughter, the wheels of bureaucracy grind to a halt and he's denied permission to adopt Sona because he's single. Overnight the rules have changed, and a very frustrated Ethan agonizes over what to do next. He is determined never to marry, though we don't know why until near the end of the novel.

Enter a pretty American teacher named Abby Ritter, a young woman who has just lost her teaching position in the unstable country and is trying desperately to earn enough money to pay for transportation to her next post. Ethan and Abby notice each other in a coffee shop -- he's brooding, she's begging for a job -- and they introduce themselves. After a few minutes of conversation, Abby volunteers to marry Ethan to help him get Sona back to the U.S. In turn, Ethan offers to pay Abby's transportation costs to her next teaching job.

They marry, and Ethan meets his new daughter for the first time. Things seem to be going great till Ethan figures out that Sona doesn't understand a word of English and he can't understand the few Kyrcznovian words his daughter says between tears. Since Abby is fluent in the language, he asks her for a big favor -- to come back to the U.S. with them and act as a nanny until Sona and Ethan adjust too each other.

Abby reluctantly agrees to the offer. She needs the money, and since she doesn't have any other work lined up, a few weeks back in the U.S. won't hurt. But she's attracted to Ethan, and this stirs up some frightening feelings for her.

Back home in Pennsylvania, Ethan and Abby loosen up around each other, and Ethan finds himself even more attracted to his "wife." But he fights it, and this brings a very uncomfortable wall down between the two.

Throughout the second half of this book, both Ethan and Abby are forced to confront their prejudices against intimacy and marriage, and Clayton does an excellent job at bringing these two characters to life. The only complaint I had was that Ethan's reasons for singlehood seemed a bit extreme, but they did explain why he was drawn to the idea of fatherhood.

I admire an author who can get me emotionally involved with two characters in 55,000 words. You get the standard baby and marriage of convenience elements in this book, but they worked for me, probably because the author also added something different, the mystique of a foreign country.

Donna Clayton's latest will be an excellent choice if you're looking for a sweet, emotional read.

--Diana Burrell

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