Temporary Daddy

 
Forever Mine by Jennifer Mikels
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #265, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0- 373-24265-4
***
Do you always choose vanilla ice cream? Even over strawberry? Jennifer Mikels' new Silhouette Special Edition, Forever Mine, may be just the right flavor for some readers this summer.

Abby Dennison returns reluctantly to northwest Arizona where she experienced great love and wrenching heartbreak. The summer before her last semester in college, Abby worked at Sam McShane’s ranch. Sam and his son, Jack, run a dude/working-ranch combo with the aid of some long-term employees and temporary helpers during the summer-tourist season. Jack and his best friend, Guy, harbor dreams of becoming a rodeo stars. During a near magical summer, Jack and Abby share their plans for the future and enjoy an intimate relationship.

Jack loves the ranch but also has his rodeo dream. He knows from conversations with Abby she wants a family and a picket-fence sort of life. She watched her mother, deserted by her musician father, travel the country rather like a camp follower constantly hoping the man would return to his family and settle down. Her mother died ever hopeful but never seeing her father again. Life on the move is no life as far as Abby is concerned.

One night, following an argument with Sam, Jack leaves the ranch. Abby is hurt and confused, especially since she has just realized she may be pregnant with Jack’s child. This is a big problem because Jack’s mother died in childbirth, and he has vowed never to cause a woman to die having his child. Then, he disappears without a word.

That was eight years ago. Now Abby is a successful, Boston-based journalist and mother of a seven-year old, Austin. Jack is a rodeo champion, traveling the circuit with Guy, who has married one of Abby’s fellow-ranch workers, Wendy, now the camp cook and new mom. The rift between Jack and Sam continues, but Jack returns for his dad’s wedding.

Just eight months ago, a chance meeting and casual introduction of Sam McShane to Abby’s Aunt Laura, a successful Houston entrepreneur led to their beginning a relationship. Now they are to be married. Abby is back at the ranch with Austin for several weeks prior to their wedding. Neither Jack nor Sam has any idea Austin is Jack’s child. Guilt about having kept that relationship a secret for over seven years plagues Abby.

Mikels juxtaposes the two couples -- Laura and Sam, Wendy and Guy -- and the ups and downs of their relationships during the weeks prior to the wedding to highlight strengths and problems in the reawakening relationship between Jack and Abby. When Jack discovers the big secrets Sam and Abby have been keeping from him, it is so near the end of the book there is just the hint of a bump in the road.

Jack’s big problem is my big problem with Mikels’ storyline. While there is a reasonable basis for Abby’s distrust of a traveling man, I was never convinced that Jack’s believing his mother died in childbirth would forever prevent his fathering a child.

The cover art of Forever Mine is perfectly attuned to the content. Not only does the woman look just old enough to be the little boy's mom, the boy looks seven, right in line with the story, and the man hunkered down next to the boy is genuinely looking at him, not down the woman's modestly revealing sundress. The cover really sums up the story, appealing but rather bland

Forever Mine is Jennifer Mikels’ twenty-first Silhouette‘s Special Edition. Undeniably, she deals with issues of interest to their readers. So if you can appreciate the subtle flavor of vanilla, indeed prefer it to a more sit-up-and take-note flavoring, you may enjoy Forever Mine.

--Sue Klock


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