Juggling Briefcase & Baby, by Jessica Hart

>> Wednesday, May 09, 2012

TITLE: Juggling Briefcase & Baby
AUTHOR: Jessica Hart

PAGES: 2010
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Romance

SETTING: Contemporary London and Scotland
TYPE: Category romance
SERIES: Follows Oh-So-Sensible Secretary

Lex Gibson is…nervous. The prospect of spending a weekend working with Romy, the only woman to ever touch his legendary guarded heart, has the lion of the corporate world…unsettled.

The tension between free-spirited Romy and buttoned-up Lex simmers dangerously. To complicate things further, Romy has a tiny daughter, who has Lex confused and distracted. They say never to mix business with pleasure, but Romy's adorable baby might just seal their very personal business deal—and change their family situation forever!
This was really not my normal kind of book. I was showing the books on my kindle to a close friend and the fact that I had something called Juggling Briefcase & Baby there left her with her mouth hanging open! Still, I've heard Wendy the Superlibrarian say so many good things about Hart and this book in particular that I thougth I'd give it a shot.

Lex Gibson and Romy Morrison had a torrid weekend together when she was 18 and he 26. Their mums were best friends, and it was one of those situations... he's away at uni, doesn't see her for ages, and when he finally does, she's gone from awkward teen to raving beauty. Anyway, at the end of their weekend (in Paris, no less), he's madly in love and wants to get married. She, although madly in love as well, is more sensible and knows she's too young. Too many things she wants to do before settling down, like travelling the world, so she goes off and does them instead of getting married. Lex, meanwhile, goes to work for the family business.

Years later, Romy is back, and with a baby (much too young to be Lex's -don't worry, this is not a secret baby book). She's now working for Lex's company, which he's running since his father had a heart attack. This all happened in an earlier book, so as this one starts, Romy has been working there for a while, although she and Lex haven't spoken yet.

But that all changes when Romy's direct boss, who was supposed to accompany Lex to Scotland to clinch a massive business deal, can't go and sends her instead, baby and all. So all sort of "category romance"-type situations ensue. The guy they're dealing with, Willie, is reluctant to deal with as cold a businessman as Lex is reputed to be (as if!). So, when he assumes Lex and Romy are together (and especially, that Lex is such a stand-up guy that the prospect of being a step-dad to baby Freya doesn't faze him), they feel they have to keep up the charade (this is a crucial deal, remember). So of course, they have to sleep in the same room, and it's cold, so she can't let him sleep on the floor. And then, when they get back to London, they have to keep it up for a while longer, until Willie travels South to sign on the dotted line. And so on and so forth.

Sometimes this sort of thing works, if you're so absorbed in the story and (especially in categories) the lovely angst of the romance that you can just gloss over it. I wasn't, so I kept nit-picking. I couldn't just let go and buy it and move on. I was just completely unconvinced that their only choices were either to pretend to be a couple or to reveal the truth and have him think Lex is actually cold and only interested in business. How about a version of the truth? How about Romy saying "Willie, actually, Lex and I are not together. We were, years ago, and I left him, but he's such a nice guy and so keen to help single mothers that he was happy to employ me in his company when I needed a job, and to accomodate my childcare needs when I had to come on this trip instead of Tim". But nope, we needed them sharing a room, didn't we?

And it wasn't a particularly interesting romance, either. I liked the basic bones of it (stuffed-shirt heroes who need to be thawed out by a more lively heroine are amongst my favourites), but the execution was just not great. The writing was good, and the book was a quick read and I didn't hate it, but that was it.

Also, the title? Deceptive. I was kind of hoping for at least a little bit of what it can mean for a single mum with a baby to have the competing priorities of a child and a career, but there was nothing of that here. Romy works for a company so child-friendly that not only do they have a creche, no one really sees anything wrong in her taking her baby along on a business trip (it was a special case, but still). And then she marries the CEO, so she'll be fine...



Wendy 9 May 2012 at 18:38  

Well....bugger. I'm sorry it didn't work better for you :(

I've really come to love Hart, but this story was most definitely a second-half read for me. I had some issues with the heroine early on, and she had to grow on me. I was sucked in by the end though, and I remember being gut-punched by the "emotional stuff" at the end....

Rosario 10 May 2012 at 07:15  

Oh, no worries, Wendy, I've discovered so many great books through you that I have no right to complain! :)

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