Phoebe Finley suddenly has a lot more responsibility in her life. Her stepbrother left his new son, Rex, with her for the afternoon and two weeks later, has still not returned. The baby's mother had died shortly after giving birth to Rex and her stepbrother has not been able to handle the death or the baby. Phoebe is afraid to keep Rex too long because she fears losing her heart to the baby and then losing him.
Phoebe hasn't had any experience with babies, so she sometimes has a hard time getting Rex to sleep. Some of the neighbors in the other apartments of the converted Victorian house, including the somewhat dotty landlady, are not too happy with a crying baby.
One of the not happy neighbors lives right next door. Jackson Abbott works nights and sleeps days. He is an engineer for a traveling road crew reinforcing bridges and overpasses in earthquake-prone California. He is only staying in Strawberry Bay for a couple of months before moving to the next job site. Jackson likes the roving life because it keeps him from getting too close to anyone. If he doesn't get too close, then he can't lose them.
One particularly bad day, Jackson storms to Phoebe's apartment to complain about the noise, but when he sees her and the baby, he can't stop himself from helping her instead. Jackson knows how to take care of babies because he took care of his twin brother and sister from the time they were born until his alcoholic mother died when he was sixteen and the twins were four.
Jackson never got over the pain of losing the twins to Social Services and then adoption. When the landlady threatens to call Social Services because she doesn't think a baby should be reared by a single mother, Jackson tells her that he and Phoebe are getting married.
The fake marriage becomes more and more difficult with Jackson trying not to care too much for both Phoebe and Rex and Phoebe not wanting to tie Jackson down. A birthday party for Jackson and earthquakes move the two of them closer together.
My biggest problem with this book is Jackson's motivation to stay aloof from every attachment. While he did become separated from the twins because he was too young to take care of them by himself, he refuses to have any connection with them even though their adoptive parents find him and want him to be a part of his brother's and sister's lives. It doesn't make sense that as much as he cared for them and fought the separation, he wouldn't want to have that connection with them now.
Phoebe makes more sense. She loved both her now dead mother and stepfather and loves her runaway stepbrother. When the landlady threatens her with Social Services, she fears losing, not only the baby, but her last bit of connection to her family. Her reasons for agreeing with the fake marriage are valid.
I liked both Jackson and Phoebe as well as the twins and the play group Rex and Phoebe join. I just wish Jackson's reluctance to connect with people hadn't felt so contrived.
--B. Kathy Leitle