Desert Isle Keeper Review

With Child

Janice Kay Johnson
May 2005, Series Romance
Harl Superromance #1273, $5.50, 299 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373712731

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Kisses

For some time now, if I wanted to read a series romance DIK, I had to go rummage in my box of keepers. Current series romances simply didn't engage me. I can't get into the usual secret baby/rancher/SEAL/spy scenarios that have been so popular lately, and the hip urban chicks of the Blaze line leave me cold. I picked up With Child on a Friday, read it straight through, and when I found myself still thinking about it on Monday, I knew I had a DIK.

Brendan Quinn's drug addict mother abandoned him when he was just a young boy. He was taken in by kind foster parents, but Quinn never let down his guard around them. The only person he ever let get close was Dean Fenton, who lived in the same foster home. Dean and Quinn were brothers in all but blood, and both joined the Seattle police department. They remained friends even after Dean left the department to start his own security business and married Mindy, a woman whom Quinn did not like at all. One evening, while Quinn gets ready to watch a ball game, he hears Dean has been shot by a couple of punks who were making meth.

When Quinn goes to tell Mindy that Dean was killed, all his distaste for her comes to the surface. He has always thought she was silly and ineffectual, and can't see that she is as shocked and grieving as he is. Nothing she does or says is right with him, and all he wants to do is get away. After Dean's estate is settled, Quinn retreats back to work thinking that his obligation is fulfilled.

But Mindy did not tell Quinn she was pregnant. Sensing his distaste for her, all she wanted to do was get out on her own. Dean didnít leave Mindy much money, but she plans to work during her pregnancy, so that with Dean's money and her own savings, she can take some time off to stay with her child when it's an infant. But when she develops preeclampsia, there is no one to turn to, and in desperation she calls Quinn.

Loner heroes are quite common, but there is nothing common about Brendan Quinn. Janice Kay Johnson does an outstanding job of fleshing him out, and by the time the book is over, we readers know and understand him very well. Quinn's past shaped him, and he knows it, but up until Dean's murder, he hasn't been able to shatter the wall he's built around himself. After Dean's death Quinn must interact with people he's ignored for years, most notably George and Nancy, his foster parents. When he comes to Mindy's aid, Quinn slowly realizes that she is far from the silly, immature woman he thought she was. Their relationship is blessedly free from silly mental lusting, and it feels like that of two intelligent adults - not overly-hormonal adolescents.

Johnson has crafted an excellent heroine, although she's not quite as strong a character as Quinn. Mindy was deeply devoted to her father, and when her mother began dating very soon after his death, Mindy took that as an insult to his memory. As we find out later, things are much more complicated than that, and she and her mother come to a more adult understanding of each other. Mindy also thinks back on her relationship with Dean, which turns out not to have been as rosy as it looked on the surface. Her relationship with Quinn moves from hostility to love very slowly and naturally - there's none of this "I hate you, let's have sex." No, they talk, they listen, they act like grown-ups. It's very refreshing.

Unless something very, very good comes along, I have found the best series romance for this year. It's deeply emotional, I was engrossed in it while I read it, I could not stop thinking about it when I finished, and I plan to re-read it again as soon as possible. If that's not a textbook example of a DIK, I don't know what is.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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