Her Very Own Family
by Gina Wilkins
(Silh. Sp. Editon #1243, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24243-3
****
In Family Found, a five book series, Gina Wilkins introduced us to the Walker and the D'Alessandro families. She's now writing the second generation series, Family Found: Sons & Daughters, introducing us to the children of the first generation families.

Doing a little research about the Family Found series, I discovered that it all began when Michelle 'Walker' hired Tony D'Allesandro to find her missing siblings, all separated and adopted or fostered by different families. Michelle was reunited with her siblings, she and Tony married and the series was off and running.

Driving home after a grueling thirteen-hour day at the hospital, orthopedic surgeon Joe D'Alessandro is first on the scene of a major wreck involving a drunk driver who has crashed into a compact car. The car containing two young women is where he's needed. Determining that the driver, Brynn Larkin, is relatively uninjured, he focuses his attention on her companion. Brynn's friend Kelly is seriously injured and will require surgery and prolonged hospitalization.

Brynn and Kelly had just arrived in Dallas, where they plan on a new beginning. Everything they own is in Brynn's car. Raised in the same foster home, they consider each other sisters. While Brynn is waiting at the hospital through Kelly's surgery, she begins to meet Joe's family, there to celebrate the arrival of Tony and Michelle's new son, born just that day. Brynn is almost overwhelmed with the D'Allesandro and Walker families. They give her lodging, offer her a job as a nanny, help her buy a car and offer more emotional support than she has ever known.

While she's a tad overwhelmed by this unconditional support, Brynn accepts their help. What she can't accept with ease is Joe's interest in her. She's awed by this man and, because of her upbringing and her heritage, knows that she won't be good enough for him.

Her Very Own Family has no external conflict, but deals primarily with Joe and Brynn's advance and retreat relationship. Joe's been interested in settling down, realizing that he's old enough and financially comfortable enough to go wife-hunting. Brynn is the only woman he's met that he's seriously interested in. He's touched by her shyness in big groups, but is told that's a common reaction among foster children. He's also delighted at her rapport with his nieces and nephews. What does surprise him is her reluctance to have children. Her reasons take a long time to surface and are credible...until an important secret is revealed, one that was fairly obvious, but interesting in its inception all the same.

Kelly is a wonderful secondary character, someone who knows Brynn well and isn't afraid to make her admit the truth. Shane, one of the Walker children, has become good friends with Brynn and Kelly. He's around so much that Joe has to squelch his jealousy. Shane is such an engaging young man, and we're lucky that his story, That First Special Kiss, will be out in September. Will Kelly be the one receiving that first special kiss?

Several times in the book the two extended/blended families get together. I was lost. I couldn't keep the characters separate and after a while, didn't try. Names and relationships didn't make too much sense. To me, that just meant that fans of family sagas have some serious book buying to do. This story is almost exclusively character driven, with the resolution being a tad bit contrived. Brynn's transformation from wanting to be unattached to having her very own family seemed rushed. I was glad to see it, but it didn't seem to be a smooth transition.

What I liked most about Her Very Own Family was watching a tender and passionate relationship develop, featuring a understanding man and a woman in need of that understanding and nurturing...who ultimately realizes that he needs her just as much.

Gina Wilkins writes stories about good people, people who strive each day to enjoy life, to be good, honorable people who ultimately make life a little better. You can't ask for much more than that.

--Linda Mowery


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