Balancing Act

The Baby Bond

For the Taking

The Father Factor
by Lilian Darcy
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1696, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24696-X
Lilian Darcy's The Father Factor is an entertaining and intriguing tale about secrets, lies and real love. Darcy tackles the premise of two unflinchingly honest main characters, who just happen to be descendants of players in the biggest scandal ever to have hit Hyattville.

Former beauty queen Shallis Duncan isn't expecting any surprises when she returns home to Tennessee; then again, she isn't expecting to run into Jared Starke either. In fact, he's probably the last person on Earth she wants to run into. After years of adoring her big sister's boyfriend, Shallis was rudely made aware of just how ruthless and power hungry Jared was. So why should she trust him now?

Jared sees the perfect opportunity to make amends with the Duncan family and show Shallis just how different he is. While attending to his grandfather's legal practice, Jared finds himself tidying up Shallis's grandmother's estate. Amidst these boring legalities, he and Shallis discover her grandmother's secret life. A life kept separate from everyone in town, except Jared's grandfather Abe. Now it's up to them to discover exactly what Abe's hiding and why he's so desperately trying to keep Jared in the dark.

Unlike most "deep, dark family secret" books, the mystery isn't the main focus. Darcy is writing a romance and doesn't wander away from that. Shallis does not suddenly turn into an amateur detective to battle villains that suddenly appear out of nowhere. It's just a simple story about the usual family skeletons that occasionally creep out of closets. In fact, if it weren't for the spoiler-laden back cover, the reader might even be surprised by the last third of the book.

The last third is actually where the book starts to stagnate. The story becomes predictable. Combining this with the anvil-like title, a five-heart novel quickly slips down to four. I realize that if a reader wanted mystery, he or she probably wouldn't be reading a Special Edition, but it is a bit much when one actually is able to predict exactly what will happen.

Despite the obviousness of the story, The Father Factor is still a very good read with well-developed characters. Shallis is a former Miss America runner up who lives in a small town and therefore must cope with small town scrutiny. Darcy incorporates that "fishbowl" mentality into Shallis's daily life and gives her heroine a sardonic sense of humor to combat her title. Shallis isn't self-absorbed and has a family to keep her firmly grounded.

What very easily could have been a detestable character turns into a sassy, smart heroine who just happens to be easy on the hero's eyes.

Shallis isn't the only well-developed character, though. Jared is a self-proclaimed former jerk. As a young man, he aspired to wealth and power. In fact, he is portrayed as having been a stereotypical attorney. He's lied, he's cheated, and he's reformed. Tired of the cutthroat life, our hero is at a point in his life where he's ready for a change. He's now honest, hard working and hard on himself. His transformation, although it takes place offstage, is believable simply because Darcy writes the character as a man who is capable of self-actualization. She allows for character growth in each character she creates.

Darcy characters aren't the only things well written. She also writes an excellent sex scene. Darcy shies away from explicit description and heavy-handed adjectives, but still manages to steam up the page. She intersperses humor with fast pacing to create sexy situations in which the characters stay true to themselves. Shallis doesn't turn into a docile shrinking violet in the bedroom, nor does Jared become the dominant, tossing her around. Characterization never takes a backseat to usual romance novel bedroom etiquette.

While The Father Factor may be predictable at times, it's a great read that would be perfect for some rainy Sunday afternoon.

--Amanda Waters

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