Avon, Jan 2004, 6.99, 384 pp.
In Nashville Claire Willoughby hosts the extremely successful TV lifestyles and cooking show Simple Pleasures though she does not live like the persona she portrays. In actuality her silent partner, “assistant” Olive Tully is the creative force behind the show. Olive cannot deal with groups or having her name in the public light as she is extremely shy.
Claire's attorney informs her that her number one fan died in an accident and that the woman named her as legal guardian of her infant Anabel. He also mentions that the only living relative is an Uncle Ramsey who has vanished. Hearing that Anabel could be under state care, Claire objects as she knows first hand the horror of the system. A hired sleuth finds Ramsey beaten up in a Nicaraguan bar. Not long afterward Ramsey arrives at Claire's home with a split lip, other bruises, torn clothing and a motorbike.
Social worker Davis Webster arrives with Anabel. He takes one look at Ramsey and decides the infant stays with Claire. Ramsey threatens a court case, but instead cleans up so he can visit his niece. As he and Claire fall in love, she thinks he betrayed her trust by exposing her real homey lifestyle to her TV followers.
Fans of contemporary romance will enjoy the growing relationships of the lead couple, a secondary pair, and the foursome with the infant. However, the emphasis on love makes the story line feel light as serious undertones involving adoptions, state managed care, and an extremely reticent individual appear almost important. Making Ramsey heroically “acceptable” subtracts from a delightful gender bender relationship. Still readers will appreciate this warm contemporary tale with love everywhere.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner