>> Saturday, November 20, 2010
TITLE: Best Laid Plans
AUTHOR: Sarah Mayberry
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Superromance
SETTING: Contemporary Australia
TYPE: Category romance
REASON FOR READING: Mayberry has become an autobuy author for me. If I ever feel like reading category romance, she's the one I go to first.
Boundaries. The key to how corporate lawyer Alexandra Knight manages her busy life. However, lately all her precisely drawn lines are getting blurred. Blame it on her out-of-control biological clock that is ignoring her single status…and on Ethan Stone.Successful lawyer Alex Knight has always had a deep desire to be a mother. She would have had a child years earlier, if possible, but circumstances haven't cooperated. Even though she's now 38, she kind of assumes there's still time, and she'll meet someone. Until, that is, the day when she receives two big shocks.
Because her sexy, no-strings colleague has posed an outrageous solution to her dilemma—he'll be her baby daddy. This from the guy who avoids all commitment? Okay, so they're attracted to each other. Really, really attracted. But crossing the line from coworker to co-parent with Ethan could ruin Alex for all other men. After all, when you've had the best…
First she runs into her ex, with whom she spent 7 years. All that time he refused to even consider having a child, and they actually broke up over this. But now she sees him pushing a stroller, and even though he tells her it was an accident, Alex feels betrayed. And the rug gets pulled out from under her even more when she goes for her annual check-up later that day and her doctor sets her straight on just how hard it gets to become pregnant once you hit your late 30s.
Faced with the possibility of never becoming a mother, Alex has a good, hard look at her options. All things considered, she decides her best bet is finding a sperm donor.
Alex is a very private person and has always maintained a very professional facade at work. She plans to keep this all very private, but even before she makes her final decision on how to proceed, her fellow partner and raquetball buddy, Ethan Stone, accidentally discovers what Alex is planning.
Ethan is initially horrified (and can't resist making it very clear to Alex, too), but his discovery gets him thinking. He wants to have a child of his own almost as much as Alex does, but a betrayal in his past has left him determined not to ever get married again. But what if he offered Alex to be the donor? They like and respect each other, surely they can manage to negotiate a way to raise a child?
Best Laid Plans didn't start on a high note with me. I was initially quite cross with Alex because of her anger at her ex. When she started ranting about it, I assumed he had misled her in some way. I don't know, told her she wanted kids and then kept postponing it and postponing it, only telling her that he actually didn't want any after years and years. But nope, the guy had been perfectly honest and said he didn't want children at all right from the start. Alex herself was the one who made the decision to completely disregard this and assume he would change his mind at some point in the future. And I thought, how dare she then get angry at him when he didn't? It's her own bloody fault she wasted her most fertile years, as she puts it. As someone who doesn't want children and is absolutely and completely sure about it, the thought of a guy doing to me what Alex does to her ex (she describes the final months of the relationship as full of tears and fights) gives me the shivers. I have always found the refusal to accept that someone could possibly not want children particularly exasperating. Now that I've hit my 30s people are starting to accept it, but way too many are still convinced I just haven't met the right man, or that my body will demand it at some point, and that makes me want to scream. I know what I want!!
Right. Erm. Sorry for the rant. I clearly took it quite personally. I'd better get back to the book. Anyway, however annoyed I got with Alex at the beginning, I was able to get over it soon enought and even to sympathise with her desperation to have a child and her shock at realising that it might already be too late to fulfill what is really her dream. Neither she nor Ethan go into their arrangement thoughtlessly. It was all very rational and reasonable... until it wasn't. And that's when it got even more interesting. I liked how Mayberry showed that this is an issue so loaded with emotion, that even people who are normally cool and rational aren't able to keep that up all the way through.
Ethan and Alex's relationship rang completely true to me. At the start of the book, they have a sort of distant, quite casual friendly relationship. They both recognise the other as someone they might be very attracted to and enjoy a close friendship with, but both have made the conscious decision to keep it more distant. And then there's one unguarded moment and they can't go back again. I loved how they build on the friendship and respect they already have, and by the end, I truly did believe they loved each other.
As I was reading, I was conscious that the book would succeed or break with the reason for Ethan's determination never, ever to marry again. He has an example of a perfectly happy marriage in his brother, after all, so why is he so convinced that he can never have the same? Would his reasons be believable? Or would they feel like an artificial obstacle to a HEA? I'm not going to reveal what they were, but I will say I understood his fear completely. This bit of the book was also slightly problematic for me, though. I chose to take it at face value, as being simply about these particular people, but I'm aware that one could interpret that the message there is that people like me are awful and abnormal. I guess I'll just have to read a couple more of Mayberry's Superromances (all of which seem pretty child-centric), and hope that she doesn't have this sort of thing every single time.
MY GRADE: A B+, with the caveats described above.