Starting With a Kiss

She’s Expecting
by Barbara McMahon
(Sil. Sp. Ed. #1554, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24554-8
Jackson Witt lost his wife and child to a random shooting three years ago. He left his hometown, started a business with an old friend, and has been living in his construction trailer, traveling from job to job. He has been avoiding relationships and basically wallowing in self-pity and guilt. He feels like he should have done something to protect them, but in reality, there was no way for him to do so.

Jackson and his partner, Jeff Henshaw, a man many years older than he, own a construction company and their current project is a resort in the Colorado mountains outside the little town of Julien. Jeff hired a new secretary since their old male secretary embezzled funds and is now in jail.

Said secretary is Mandy Parkerson, a woman who has suffered some hard lumps of her own. Abandoned by her father at birth and dumped into foster care by her mother at age four, Mandy has grown up without attachments and lacking a sense of security. She started dating a co-worker in Denver and ended up pregnant. He deserted her as soon as he found out. Now she has quit her job, given up her apartment and headed to Julien and the work site six months pregnant. The timing is perfect, as it is only two months until the site shuts down for the winter.

What is not perfect is Jackson’s reaction to a woman secretary and her pregnancy. (Hence the title She’s Expecting). After much arguing, Mandy convinces Jackson to give her a week to prove she is invaluable. If she is not, she will leave. If she does well, she wants a bonus and a chance to stay on. With this tableau set, the story evolves as the pair is attracted, reject each other, avoid each other, develop a friendship of sorts and eventually fall in love.

Jackson has shut off his emotions and doesn’t know what to do when Mandy reawakens feelings he has not felt in a long time. He struggles with his feelings and his sense of losing his dead wife all over again. Mandy has to work through her fear that everyone she loves abandons her.

Sound like a familiar scenario? It is, but McMahon does a good job of melding the right amount of self-pity with reality and the spirit of getting on with one’s life. Mandy has it strongest. Despite her upbringing, she has a positive outlook on life and is determined to love and raise her baby. Jackson has to put to rest his ghosts, but his innate love of life and sense of rightness helps pull him through.

The secondary characters, while not fully developed, were more than one dimension and did enhance the tale. The friendship and partnership between Jeff and Jackson was so true to life - they argued, they agreed, they worked together and they got irritated at each other - all while watching each other’s back.

The look at the hardships confronted on a remote work site with limited facilities and the essence of small towns leaps off the pages. The description of the Colorado wilderness adds to the story and the peace each finds there.

I had a difficult time putting this one down. It is fast paced, coupled with a delightful heroine and strong hero. She’s Expecting is an unexpected pleasure and one I recommend.

--Shirley Lyons

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