When a Hero Comes Along

Teresa Southwick
June 2008, Series Romance
Sil Special Edition #1904, $4.99, 224 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373249047
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

Teresa Southwick continues her string of successful Silhouette Special Editions with When a Hero Comes Along. Though I didn't find it as compelling a read as At a Millionaire's Request or Midnight, Moonlight, and Miracles, I recommend it, albeit with qualifications.

Joe Morgan and Kate Carpenter shared a passionate love affair until he broke it off suddenly. He disappeared from her life into the military as a helicopter pilot and, when she discovered she was pregnant, she thought long and hard before going to his brother and writing to him about his impending fatherhood. Kate's letter kept him alive in a Taliban prison, but how does he come back into her life...and that of her son more than a year later? When he shows up at her door one night, all he knows is that he plans to be a part of their lives, even though she wants nothing to do with him, and even refuses to allow him to be alone with their baby.

The break-up with Joe devastated Kate. She has major baggage; her father left her mother, her mother then became involved with man after man after man, and eventually, when a relationship turned sour, her mom chose the man over Kate. She refuses to trust her heart ever again, particularly for a man who seemed to so cavalierly love and leave her. She doesn't know - and it isn't revealed to the reader for much of the book - precisely why he left as he did.

The reader does know, though, that Joe is estranged from his brother Preston, with whom he jointly owns the helicopter business they inherited from their father. Though it is through Preston that Kate is able to communicate with Joe about the pregnancy, he vows never to forgive his brother for sleeping with his wife during an earlier tour of duty. As Joe tries to become a bigger and bigger part of Kate's life, he tries to keep her away from his brother, but refuses to say why, and Kate is ever more determined, if Joe is to be a part of her life and the life of her son, that his differences with his brother be resolved.

While I've liked Southwick's SSE's previously, they all shared the same "my heart is closed" type of hero. In this book, though, it's the heroine who needs to open her suspicious heart to love, and I appreciated the reversal. Joe knows he loves Kate, but he worries about the darkness in his soul left by his experience in Afghanistan. It is Kate who must deal with her issues about men in general, Joe in particular, and her need to maintain independence, even when it becomes crystal clear that she needs to rely on him.

As much as I enjoyed Southwick's use of a reluctant heroine this time around, reading the book was at times like watching a ping-pong match as Kate internally debates whether or not to trust Joe. It read reasonably, but the conflict persists for too long. Another point, although far more of a niggle than anything else, is the level of detail the author includes in part of her story. I really didn't need to know which way Joe turned on what street in order to take Kate to his business' headquarters; details like that pulled me out of the story every time.

The sub-threads, one involving Preston, the other about Kate's mother, while on the hokey side, gave me respite from all the mental yes-no'ing that Kate does throughout the story. It's true that because of Joe's worries about the darkness in him, he withholds enough of himself to give a woman pause, but Kate's reaction was just more than I could handle, which is why When a Hero Comes Along earns a qualified recommendation rather than a whole-hearted one.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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