Before I Sleep

Caught

A Conard County Reckoning

Cowboy Comes Home

A Fateful Choice

Mistletoe Kisses

Nighthawk

As Sue Civil-Brown:

Chasing Rainbow

Letting Loose

 
Involuntary Daddy by Rachel Lee
(Silh. Int. Mom #955, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07955-9
****
No one does wounded heroes and heroines better than Rachel Lee. In Involuntary Daddy she introduces two more lost souls who find happiness in Conard County, Wyoming. And, as is so often the case in category romances, she also educates her readers about the perils and problems of living with a chronic illness, in this case, diabetes.

Rafe Ortiz is our Involuntary Daddy. A DEA undercover agent, he is shocked when he is called to the hospital to discover that his onetime lover has just died of a gunshot wound after giving birth to a child. Raquel Molina has identified Rafe as the father and her last wish is that he take the boy away from Miami and her family.

Rafe hadn’t seen Raquel in months, not since he arrested her brother Eduardo for drug trafficking. But DNA tests prove conclusively that Rafael, Jr. (or Peanut as Rafe calls him) is truly his. How can a DEA undercover agent care for an infant? Rafe’s only solution is to take the baby to his half-brother, the sheriff of Conard County. When Raquel’s brother tracks Rafe down and suggests that the Molino family wants the baby, Rafe’s incentive to go west grows suddenly greater.

There is only one problem: Nate Tate doesn’t even know he has a half brother.

Arriving in Conard County, Rafe is fortunate to run into former DEA agent Gage Dalton (hero of Lee’s classic Miss Emmaline and the Dark Angel). Gage invites Rafe to stay with him and Emma. The Daltons have another house guest, Angela Jaynes, an old college friend of Emma’s.

If Rafe is a wounded loner -- son of an alcoholic mother and an absent father, raised in foster homes, spending his life among the scum of the earth -- Angela is equally wounded. Since the age of eight, she has suffered from diabetes. The disease means she must constantly monitor her blood sugar, eat at regular times, and give herself insulin four times a day. It cost her her fiancé, her unborn baby, and any hope of future marriage or children. She has come to visit Emma and Gage because both her life and her illness have gotten the better of her. She needs a place to rest and recuperate.

Lee brings these two lost souls together in a perfectly believable fashion. There is undoubted attraction, but each carries so much baggage that opening to the other is extremely difficult. Rafe is gradually humanized as he learns to be a father and to love his unexpected son. Angela gradually comes to understand how her illness has led her to deny her own feelings.

When Manuel Molina follows Rafe to Wyoming, the threat of losing custody of the son he has come to love forces Rafe to reevaluate his life. He forces Angela to face her own feelings of inadequacy and her own fears.

Fans of the Conard County series will enjoy meeting old friends in the pages of Involuntary Daddy. I especially appreciated seeing Gage and Emma living their particular happily ever after. But I don’t think one has to have read the other Conard County books to enjoy this one.

Lee paints a gripping picture of the pain of living with diabetes. Angela is a particularly strong creation as she struggles to maintain her blood sugar level. Her frustrations are understandable and her fears are realistic. How can she commit to Rafe and to Peanut when her future is so uncertain?

I never cease to be amazed at how much feeling and intensity a good author can inject into a short novel. Lee is recognized as one of the best category authors and Involuntary Daddy is a good example of why she is so well respected.

--Jean Mason


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