Her Ready-Made Family
by Jessica Hart
(Silh. Rom. #1848, $4.25, G) ISBN 0373-19848-5
**
Her Ready-Made Family is another of those stories where the kids seem to rule the roost because the parents are divorced and they decide to find their dad, with whom they live, a wife. Circumstances throw the two adults together and they end up making the kids happy as they fall in love. Sadly, the two adults spend their entire time denying their feelings and it often reads like two silly children figuring out an adolescent relationship.

Morgan Steele is almost forty, a successful businesswoman who just sold her company for millions and has moved to the country outside London. She has purchased an old rundown estate and has had it restored to splendor – gardens, swimming pool and all. What Morgan has not been successful at is relationships. Her twin sister Minty tells her it is because she tries to control them like she did her business. Morgan has only had one real boyfriend and he dumped her before she moved. She has also recently lost her mother and inherited one very spoiled and very overweight dog.

The dog leads her to Alistair Brown, a country veterinarian who loves what he does. He is disgusted that she has allowed the dog to become ill because of his weight and he tells her so in no uncertain terms. She finds him rude. Alistair is divorced and trying to raise 10 year old Phoebe and Polly on his own because his wife, Shelley abandoned them for a younger, richer man in Spain. But despite what Alistair considers her self-centeredness, she does keep in touch and sees the girls about three times a year. The girls decide Dad needs a new wife and they pick Morgan, unaware that they have met under less than pleasant circumstances. But she meets their criteria: she is smart and rich. If they marry, according to the ten-year olds’ logic, Phoebe can get a horse and Polly can swim every day.

Morgan’s lack of confidence in her personal life leads her to lie to an old high school nemesis, Bethany, that she and Alistair are madly in love and about to marry, never imagining that Bethany would decide to visit. At the same time, Shelley is about to arrive to take the girls on a scheduled holiday and has been threatening a custody battle because her new beau can provide so much more sophisticated entertainment than Alistair can as a country vet. Morgan and Alistair team up to pose as an engaged couple, including moving in together in Morgan’s house, and the gig is on.

There is little to like here. Morgan is supposedly a wonderful executive, but all we see is a self-pitying creature who constantly laments her lack of a personal life, and who runs from making a commitment for fear of being hurt when she has the chance. Alistair spends his whole time acting like a sour puss because he is attracted but is certain that Morgan is like Shelley…always on the lookout for something better, even when the evidence points to a completely different person. The girls are materialistic and often bratty. And the premise of why they have to act like they care is preposterous for two sensible adults in their late thirties.

Her Ready-Made Family is tedious to read because of the concepts and its lack of characters to cheer on make it that much more difficult to read.

--Shirley Lyons


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