Cowboys and Cradles

Home-Grown Husband

Her Necessary Husband
by Sharon Swan
(Harl. American #983, $4.75, PG) 0-373-16983-3
Jenna Lorenzo has returned to Harmony, Arizona, where she lived with her family as a child.  She has spent the last several years working as a live-in housekeeper/nanny for several different families.  She has applied for a position at the Hayward house.  Ross Hayward has been a widow for three years and has two young daughters.  His current matronly housekeeper is leaving for family reasons.  Ross dearly loves his daughters, but runs a successful business and hopes to follow in his grandfather's footsteps by running for mayor someday.  He knows that he will need someone to help with the family and the home if he wants to be successful in both his personal and public life.

Jenna is four years younger than Ross is.  She and many other girls had crushes on him when they were in school, but he married the blonde beauty Cynthia.  They were called the Golden Couple.  Three years earlier, Cynthia and Ross's mother were both killed in an auto accident. Jenna is surprised to find that she is still attracted to Ross after so many years.

Ross is impressed by Jenna's credentials and her calm and caring way with his daughters, but he is concerned that having such a young woman as his live-in housekeeper will cause talk in such a small town.  He does not want any scandal if he decides to run for mayor and he does not want Jenna and his daughters subjected to idle gossip.  Instead he proposes that the two of them go out together with the real possibility of marriage.  His reasons include securing a good mother for his children, a companion for himself, and the chance to have other children.  

Jenna is quite surprised by this turn of events, but agrees to go out with Ross to see if they are compatible.  Neither of them wants to talk about past relationships, so they agree that the past is the past and start fresh.  Jenna did have a particularly bad relationship and she is glad not to have to discuss it.  With the encouragement of her good friend, she decides that she likes Ross and his girls enough to take a chance.

The story works pretty well and contains a few good twists and turns, but I never felt like I got to know Jenna. The author used the devise of showing that a confrontation between Jenna and Ross is coming, but then the next scene is after the confrontation and a quick overview is presented.  Jenna is portrayed as pretty passive so missing the few times she speaks up makes her more of a mystery.  Even when the scandal in her past is presented, it is something that was not of her making and not that awful.

The children do come across as two distinct personalities and with the expected up and down emotions of kids suddenly getting a stepmom.  Ross's motivations and growth through the story are the most understandable.  He is a nice guy to begin with and dearly loves his girls, but a bit too concerned about the image of his family and the legacy of his grandfather.  He isn't completely perfect at the end, but the potential is there.

Readers who like small town settings will probably enjoy Her Necessary Husband.  It is the third book by Ms. Swan set in Harmony, Arizona, and at least two secondary characters seen like possible candidates for further books.

--B. Kathy Leitle

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