Sweet Trouble

Susan Mallery
2008, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373773056
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

The final installment in Susan Mallery's Keyes sisters trilogy, provides redemption for Jesse, the family bad girl. Despite her checkered past, I found her to be a likable, interesting heroine.

Five years have passed since Jesse pregnant and broke - left Seattle after being wrongly accused of having sex with her sister Nicole's then-husband (whose bad behavior left the two caught in a compromising position that wasn't what it seemed). Now she is back to introduce her four-year old son to his father, make peace with her sisters, and earn a spot in the family bakery.

While Jesse has spent years preparing for her return, it's a complete surprise to Matt - her ex-boyfriend and son's father - and to Nicole. As a result, it's not surprising that neither of them forgive her the instant she returns. They're still holding their old images of Jesse.

Five years earlier, Matt refused to accept that she was pregnant with his child and he still believes she had sex with her sister's ex. When Jesse returns, and provides evidence that her son is his, Matt decides to get revenge by breaking her heart and gaining custody of his son. If Matt had developed and honed his plan for revenge over years, I wouldn't have accepted it. As developed here, it was a very short-term plan.

I really liked Jesse. She openly admits to making many mistakes, but has worked hard to change. She's done a fine job raising her son, went back to college, and has detailed plans for ways to improve the family bakery, if only her sister will agree to them.

It took me longer to warm up to the hero. Although I normally dislike flashbacks, they worked here to provide depth to both Matt and Jesse. Through flashbacks, we learn that when the two first met, he was a wealthy computer games developer with no social skills who lived with his mother. Jesse initially offered to do a complete makeover, so that he could attract women. As she got to know him, she realized that she wanted him for herself.

The book is filled with complicated, less-than perfect characters. There was a slight disconnect for me from the Nicole at the end of the second book (in which she was the heroine) to the Nicole in this one. This shouldn't be a problem for anyone who hasn't read the previous book.

The flashbacks also provide a nice contrast between Jesse and Matt's past romance and present relationship. Their original romance was very sweet and a marked contrast to Jesse's numerous prior sexual encounters. Their present relationship is more complex. Jesse doesn't trust Matt's intentions, and Matt clearly intends to hurt her. Despite these feelings, they're attracted to each other and find themselves remembering all their original feelings.

I enjoy contemporary romance with no suspense and found this to be an enjoyable read and a satisfactory end to the series.

-- LinnieGayl Kimmel

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