Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-249782-6
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Maybe it’s a testament as to the unhealthy number of Harlequin series titles I’ve read over the years – not many, but probably still too many, if you know what I mean – because when I realize that Along Came Love is a surprise baby story treated in a believable, human manner, my reaction is to stammer and stab my finger at the book. The words won’t form, but I think I’m trying to say, “Anomaly! Anomaly! My brain can’t process this!”
Mind you, I use the word “human” strictly in context of romance novels – which is to say, the hero is still a bazillionaire with abs and stamina that will never be vanquished by time and gravity. Indeed, if this book has one stand out flaw, it’s that the problems here are trivialized by the hero’s well-packed bank account.
The heroine doesn’t know what to do with the thing she is carrying? Who cares. The guy can afford to hire Queen Elizabeth to be the nanny if he chooses, so whatever, suck it up, darling. If such a bazillionaire wants to marry me and there is no mention of a prenup, you bet I’d say yes and marry him on the spot, even if he looks like Richard Simmons after a car accident. Beauty is only skin deep, darling; money like his, on the other hand, is eternal. If you have sex with Mark Zuckerberg, you replace his face with a giant sack of money in your head in order to get a big one. But if you sleep with Michael Turner Black, though, you only think of the sack of money if you want a second orgasm on top of that big one.
Michael is old money, although he’d made enough money of his own to be independently wealthy. His family is no doubt old-school Republicans, but since Michael is in IT, he likely dresses left when it counts the most so YES I WILL MARRY HIM NOW, WHERE DO I SIGN. Oh, what? Right, the heroine – India Shaw. She is the free-spirited foster sister of the heroine in the author’s previous book, who prefers to go where her whim and kismet will take her. Never to be tied down, the only permanence in her life is Chelsea, her sister at heart if not by blood. Now, with Chelsea having a husband and soon a family of her own, India is feeling all alone again.
At Chelsea’s wedding a few months back, she meets Michael, the business partner of Chelsea’s now-husband, and the two spent two days doing whatever, wherever. For Michael, he will always have to adjust his underpants every time he calls for pizza because of what she did during those two days to him while he was on the phone. Alas, she left him soon after, and never responded to his texts or calls. When the story opens, though, she’s back. India wants to see Chelsea, but as her hormones are a bit out of whack, she forgets that Chelsea had finally left on her honeymoon with her husband. She has no one to vouch for her, so she is denied entrance into her friend’s new place. Never mind, she’ll just break in and… well, hello there, officer. Oops.
Michael springs her out and pays her bail, and along the way learns that India is pregnant with his brat. This is complicated. He was on a break with his long-term girlfriend when he bumped uglies with India, and now that he is, uh, on the unbreak phase with Skylar again, whom he is convinced is the perfect, efficient, practical wife material for him, he has no idea how to fit India into his well-planned future. He only knows that India wants to give the kid up for adoption, and he can’t bear the thought of that. On her part, India has nowhere to go while Chelsea is still away, so she reluctantly lets Michael take her in. Still, she plans to leave again once things have settled down and she has tied up some loose ends with her friend.
A lot of things can happen over the next few weeks, including falling in love…
Along Came Love is interesting because, unlike the typical romance approach with such story lines, both Michael and India are uncertain about what to do with one another. Usually, either the heroine or the hero will have the plans laid out, and it is the other person who puts up a fight. Here, Michael has to figure out what he wants first before he knows how to fit India into his life. He wants her there, but he doesn’t have a good idea how to make everything fit into place for a long time. As a long-time Daddy’s boy, he has been obedient, and in a way, India is his one greatest rebellion against the well-planned future that his parents have in mind for him. It will take some there for him to get there, but boy, it is fun to follow him there. The author does a good job here in making his confusion and disorientation both believable and relatable. Despite everything, it’s pretty clear that Michael is a nice fellow at heart, so he’s alright even if I sometimes want to shake some sense into him.
Compared to Michael, India’s personality feels more static. For a long time, she is stuck in a rut, repeating the same set of whine until it gets old. To be fair, she is pregnant, so most people, including Michael, tend to tiptoe a bit so as to not make her feel too distressed. Hence, nothing really challenges her angst for a long time, so poor India comes off as repetitive and one-note for a long time. I wish the author had found a more interesting way to deal with India’s journey to her epiphany. Michael’s feel real and genuine; India’s however is rushed and dealt with the subtlety of a jackhammer, with various characters especially Michael lecturing her as if they have all turned into counselors at a support helpline all of a sudden.
But still, that doesn’t spoil the fun. Michael and India feel so right together, and the author actually ramps up the sexy times here. Love really comes here, often and frequent, if you know what I mean, and here’s a toast to that.
So yes, while this is a surprise baby story, the author serves what could have been a stale dish with poignancy, humor, sexual sizzle, and lots of love. The main characters aren’t always mature or perfect, but that only makes them real, despite the hero’s fantastical bank account. And that’s why Along Came Love works so well for me. It feels real, seems real, and the pleasure, as a result, is indeed real.