Housebreaking a Husband
by Lori Soard
(Five Star, $26.95, G) ISBN 0-7862-4578-6
I chose to read this over the Christmas week because it promised to be a light, amusing tale, one suitable to accompany a warm fire and a holiday glow. It proved instead to be a letdown. One-dimensional characters, predictable plot, and unpolished writing made for a disappointing experience.

Sarah Goldwyne operates a dog training business. She has just moved into a new house and discovers that her neighbors are a good-lucking contractor Trent Kasey and his two-year-old identical twin niece and nephew. His sister’s will left the children in his care, but she failed to terminate the father’s rights. Trent has endured the loss of several loved ones and is determined to raise the children even though he lacks experience with children or their care.

Sarah lost her unborn child and was told she might not be able to have children, children she deeply desires. She’s a member of a large, close family and longs to have her own. Her mother is constantly after her to meet an eligible man, ignoring Sarah’s discomfort or painful memories.

Sarah quickly establishes a relationship with the children. When Trent is unable to hire a suitable nanny, she agrees to rearrange her hours so that she can watch the children. They both conceal their attraction to one another.

The children’s father never married their mother and has had no contact with them, but he sees this as an opportunity to make some money. He threatens to sue for custody unless Trent pays him off. Trent’s lawyer is not encouraging; courts favor the biological parent plus Trent is single. In order to increase his chances of winning custody of the twins, he and Sarah decide to marry temporarily. Is there a chance this will turn into a lasting love?

TRR reviewers don’t award one-heart ratings lightly. The book has to lack positive attributes - the plot, characters, motivation, and writing style must all be found wanting. Housebreaking a Husband is a book that tries to be a light romantic comedy but fails on all counts.

The story deals with some painful issues - abusive relationship, miscarriage, infertility, death, child custody dispute, deadbeat dad, insensitive pushy mother - and treats them as minor speed bumps on the cheerful road to happily ever after. Everything works out so-o-o well and so conveniently. Don’t worry. Be happy.

The main conflict - the children’s biological father suing for custody of cute kids - and the obvious resolution - pretty next-door neighbor who wants children - are all introduced within the first few pages. The plot follows its predictable course without variation till the end and includes that old favorite: the Big Misunderstanding. If the hero and heroine ever sat down and candidly discussed a few things, the book would be only half as long.

The character development is possibly the book’s greatest flaw. There isn’t any. He’s handsome. She’s lovely. He’s tortured. She’s wounded. They never become more than one-dimensional characters.

Their thinking processes, however, are equally reasoned and insightful. His parents died in an auto accident, his fiancée committed suicide days after they became engaged (no explanation given), his sister died of cancer so, of course, in classic fashion he can’t love again. It hurts too much. Her abusive fiancé caused her to lose their baby then dumped her because scarring from the miscarriage will probably mean she can never bear children therefore no man will ever want her.

The romance is no more convincing. He constantly worries over how he can keep his libido under control given her great legs and adorable tush but never makes moves on her. She would love for this to be a permanent relationship but constantly reminds him this is to be a very temporary marriage of convenience. Then, with no foundation, no evolution, they’re in love.

This is the pattern of the whole story. The reader is told this is happening, but it’s never shown in a way that makes it believable. It doesn’t help that the writing is awkward as though it were a rough rather than a final draft. The dialogue is often artificial, little resembling the way people actually talk.

The most amusing thing about Housebreaking a Husband was my husband’s reaction when he read the title. I assured him it was fiction, not a how-to book. He put it down immediately without opening it. Others would be best advised to follow his example.

--Lesley Dunlap

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