RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Father to Son by Janice Kay Johnson

B+

Title: From Father to Son
Author: Janice Kay Johnson
Publication Info: Harlequin 2012
ISBN: 9780373717644
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book From Father to Son This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Rebe. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Contemporary Series Romance category.

The summary:     

Is an independent cop the best family man?

Niall MacLachlan's one priority is the law. He fought his way from the wrong side of the tracks to earn his badge and won't jeopardize it for anything. After all, trusting his family nearly cost him everything as a kid. So, no. This loner has no desire for a wife and children to call his own.

So why is his entirely too attractive landlady, Rowan Staley, slipping past all his defenses? She and her young family—complete with noisy dog—are everything Niall thinks he doesn't want. But he can't keep his distance when she turns to him for protection from a neighborhood threat.

And in the end, letting her go might be impossible.

And here is Rebe's review:

Janice Kay Johnson has long been one of my favorite category romance authors. Very few of her novels have been misses for me, and this one was no exception. There’s an ugly dog, a broody bagpipe-playing cop hero, and blue collar heroine and hero. How could anyone resist?

From Father to Son is the second in a three-part series about the MacLachlan brothers, but each book easily stands alone. In fact, I read this book first before I realized that it was part of the series, so you should have no problems if you haven’t read the first book in the series.

In the prologue to From Father to Son we learn that Niall MacLachlan is the second of three brothers whose mother abandoned them when their drug-dealing father went to prison. Duncan MacLachlan, the oldest brother, had just graduated high school, so he gave up his college scholarship to raise his younger brothers with some tough love.

Fast forward to the present day, and we learn that Duncan is the town’s police chief and Niall is a detective. Niall is renting a small cottage from Enid, an elderly lady who is blessed with hearing loss. I say blessed, because Niall plays the bagpipes. Seriously, who wants to rent to a guy who plays bagpipes? NOT ME. Now, if he wants to wander the backyard in a kilt and he closely resembles Daniel Craig, I’d be all for that, but the bagpipes would be a major deal breaker for me, kind of like smoking or being a Jets fan. IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN.

Unfortunately this ideal rental arrangement falls apart when Niall discovers Enid’s body in the first chapter (okay, it was in the kitchen, but you know what I mean). Enid’s heir is her granddaughter, Rowan, who quickly moves into the main house with her two young children and their ugly dog. Niall is horrified, because he doesn’t really want to interact with anyone, and kids and dogs are experts at demanding attention. And let’s face it, any police detective living in the backyard would be irresistible to an 8 year old boy. Add to that the ugly dog’s fondness for digging under Niall’s fence, and Rowan’s not unreasonable desire to have her sleep uninterrupted by hellish bagpipe noise, and Niall is concerned that he’ll have to move.

Of course, as romance readers we all know that Niall is going to get what’s coming to him, because there are KIDS! And a DOG!!! Really, he should have seen it a mile away. Cranky, broody, good looking police detectives who look after their elderly neighbors are like romance crack cocaine.

It’s to the author’s credit that she takes this predictable plot and makes it so appealing. Rowan is a widow who has lived with her two children, Desmond and Anna, at the home of her in-laws, because she is a teacher’s aide and can’t afford to live on her own. Enid’s gift of her house is a godsend, however, because after a year of living with the in-laws, Rowan’s ready to be on her own. The side plot with the in-laws is particularly well done, because it is so believable. They enjoy spending time with their grandchildren but inevitably have their own opinions about how Rowan is and should be raising her children. They are not happy about her moving out, and we see Rowan’s inner struggles with recognizing their apparently sincere desire to help and be with the kids, while weighing how to establish her independence without giving offense.

This conflict becomes central to the plot as Rowan and Niall begin to face their mutual attraction, one that both characters are fighting. Again, Johnson does an excellent job of portraying the struggles of a blue collar single mother to make ends meet and be a mother while acknowledging her own needs as a woman. Rowan is such a fabulous heroine, because when Niall’s fear of intimacy leads him to run hot and cold with the children, she immediately calls him on his behavior. The children’s relationships with Niall are also well done, as the children have and cause normal kid problems, such as nighttime trips to the emergency rooms and too expensive swimming lessons, that draw Niall into their family circle. As Niall and Rowan grow closer and the in-laws begin to notice, this creates even more tension between Rowan and the grandparents.

The realistic portrayals of Rowan’s financial and familial situations and Niall’s inner struggles with intimacy because of his troubled youth make this an engaging read, easily worth an A. Unfortunately, there’s also a mystery plot that provides the resolution to the in-laws/Rowan situation that just did not work for me. It bothered me that the troubled relationship between the mother and in-laws took the turn it did (I can’t go into more details without providing spoilers). I actually would have preferred to have that situation left up in the air, rather than how it was handled, as the villain was too obvious.

We also learn that Rowan has issues with physical intimacy because of her relationship with her deceased husband, Drew. The “bad-in-bed first husband” trope is a pet peeve of mine. Why can’t she have had great/amazing sex with her first husband and still be attracted to Niall and have the same concerns over being a single mom and being a woman? So that bugged me, but, again, other readers might not take issue with Rowan having to learn how to blow Niall’s pipes (ha!!! You had to know I would work THAT in somehow!).

Despite these issues, I would highly recommend this book to other readers. In fact, when I signed up to do this review, I couldn’t find my copy of the book anywhere. Turns out I’d given it to my mother-in-law.


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  1. 1
    Rachel says:

    I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but ARGH, these Harlequin romances take like a 1980s hotel painting and stick it on the cover.  If I were the writer I would be like, “Uh, no.  That ugly picture is going nowhere near my hard work.”

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