I am a fan of forbidden attraction romances, but I often get a major case of the squicks from romances that are set in a workplace, particularly a nanny/babysitter employment situation. But Christie Ridgeway’s name and the description that indicated the kids were older and therefore the nanny was, too, was enough to convince me to give the book a try.
Oh, holy smoke, there is some hot steamy attraction up in here. While the ending left me a little cold, the development of attraction and the negotiation of the relationship was steaming excellently hot.
Kayla has been the nanny for single father Mick for years. She’s older than one might expect – and she lives in because Mick is a firefighter who is often on call at the station for 24 hour shifts. Kayla has been finishing her BA degree while she works, and at 27, she’s got her degree, an excellent relationship with the children she cares for, and an increasing amount of discomfort because secretly, she’s fallen in love with Mick (who, in case you are wondering, is 34. The age difference is not so so huge). She doesn’t want things to change but they are going to.
Mick has been on autopilot for a long time, first after overcoming his grief at the loss of his wife in a traffic accident, then raising his children with the help of a live-in nanny while serving as captain of the fire department. But now everything is changing: his daughter is a pre teen who has gone bra shopping and fights with him over wearing makeup. His nanny suddenly looks terribly attractive to him. Even the local bar got a complete remodel. Everything is different. He’s, much like many guys I know, utterly pissed at all this change popping up around him.
I love Ridgway’s manner in detailing those changes and how they affect everyone while also showing their own changes as well. Jane, Mick’s daughter, is on the cusp of teenager-land, with the accompanying hormones and temper and drama fits. His son is just at the leaving edge of childhood. A new job with another family has popped up for Kayla that Mick knows about but is afraid to tell her of, and Kayla is aware that it’s time she grew up herself and moved on from her hopeless relationship.
And yet there’s an axis point around which all these relationships revolve and from which all those changes emerge: one spot in the kitchen where Mick first notices Kayla in a different light (literally). That one location in their home becomes the epicenter of the story, and the ripples that emerge from that one moment carry through every scene afterward. That a location in the house serves as a pivotal point in their relationship also underscores how important their healthy and happy home life is, and how each person in their family is valuable and important. The kids aren’t an afterthought – their drama affects Kayla and Mick.
The reverse of that was my problem with the ending.
I thought it was a little too easy for the kids to accept Kayla’s potential change of status in their family, especially after a semi-pointed conversation with Jane about the fact that Kayla is paid to take care of them.
One of the best moments in the book comes at the end, when Mick realizes that his perception of his job as a father is somewhat incorrect, that his job as a first responder and immediate emergency caretaker has leaked into his home life, skewing his understanding of his responsibilities to his children. I’m trying to be broad here, but his realization of how his kids help him as much as he helps them was just wonderful. Too often, fathers get a limited, un-nuanced treatment, and in his book, I really appreciated Ridgeway’s portrayal of Mick as a father.
My problems with the ending caused me to finish the book with a bit of an, “Oh, well, the first 3/4ths were kinda awesome” feeling, and even if the resolution is too easy, the slow build of attraction between Mick and Kayla, and the way in which they honor both their responsibilities and their feelings is worth reading. I’m not often one for romances with children in them, but as I said in the beginning, there was enough to indicate that my fears of trite portrayal might be unfounded, and I am so, SO glad I gave this book a try.