rynet_ii: VY2 sits at a desk writing while love letters fly around him. (I probably wrote something.)
[personal profile] rynet_ii
I list this one as being "by Silhouette Books" because it's a collection of three romance short stories by three different authors that were published by Silhouette Books. All of the stories are connected, in that they take place in the small town of Grand Springs, during late December, when a heavy ice storm hits the town, and all three of the couples attend the same Christmas party at one point. That said, the stories otherwise don't affect each other's plots much.

The stories in the collection include:

A Pregnant Pause by Mary Lynn Baxter. Shane McCoy is ye typical manly rancher cowboy male lead type, and he's been in love with his friend Julie Harrison for a long time. Like, super in-love, he has loved her since they were teenagers, has never loved anyone else, and doesn't think he ever will. Julie, however, wound up first dating his best friend, then later marrying someone else entirely, while Shane went around doing manly cowboy stuff I can't remember right now. Point is, best friends with a one-sided crush, haven't seen each other in a while.

They remeet at the Christmas Party of Fate and Shane discovers that Julie is a) nine months pregnant and b) recently divorced. While they're getting reacquainted, Julie's ex-husband shows up and parades his hot new fiancée around, and the humiliated Julie leaves the party early in the midst of the ice storm. Her car winds up breaking down and Shane has to rescue her, and winds up bringing her back to his ranch. They end up stranded there, at which point Julie finds herself going into labor a few weeks ahead of schedule.

The writing on this isn't great and it had a one-disaster-after-another thing going on which started out as a reasonably well connected string of events, but then a random DEADLY SNEK shows up in Julie's bedroom and it's just. Why. Also, while I wouldn't say I'm tokophobic, my feelings about pregnancy, childbirth, and fertility kinks range from "Meh, kinda cute maybe idk," to "This is actively creepy and gross," so listening to the hero's internal monologue about how hot Julie's swollen belly is just got a o_O reaction from me. I wound up skipping over this one.

Holiday Reunion by Marilyn Pappano. Steve and Rebecca Wilson are a married couple who had an enormous fight six weeks ago, resulting in Rebecca moving out of their house and into an apartment away from Steve. Both of them have been desperately lonely since then and Steve made several attempts to contact her at first for a reconciliation, but Rebecca is still hurt and clinging onto that. Similar to Shane and Julie, they remeet at the Christmas Party of Fate, but they wind up arguing and Rebecca storms out of the party and tries to drive home on her own. Unfortunately, she winds up in a car accident and Steve has to rescue her and brings her first to the hospital where he works, and then back to her apartment, where they of course wind up stranded for a few days due to the inclement weather.

Stuck with one another, the two of them wind up having to discuss their relationship, all the things that lead up to the argument that's shattered their marriage, and whether or not they can patch things up again and if so, how.

There were some attitudes and bits of this story that gave me pause, but overall I think it's my favorite story in the collection. And a lot of that is due to it being revealed that a) Rebecca has fertility issues and is no longer able to have children (she did have a kid at eighteen, who her abusive parents gave away, but Rebecca still developed the issues as she got older) and b) the infertility doesn't magically go away because of the power of love or it being revealed the doctor made a mistake or anything- Rebecca ends the story still unable to have more biological children, and it's suggested that in order to have that large family they wanted, Rebecca and Steve will eventually have to adopt. And it's still treated as a happy ending since they're still going to commit to each other and support each other even if things hadn't worked out exactly as they'd hoped. And considering how BAAAAABIES fixated romance novels frequently are, and how you still get mainstream movies like Age of Ultron where infertility is treated as the ultimate tragedy a woman can go through, I really respect Marilyn Pappano for including this plot point and handling it the way she did.

Christmas Bonus by Christine Flynn. Lucas Harding is a handsome and successful CEO and Sarah Lewis is his ever-reliable secretary. Their relationship is platonic and while perhaps not entirely professional- in that Sarah frequently helps Lucas handle personal issues besides his business matters, such as decorating his house for him- the two of them have a strong amount of mutual respect and trust in one another. 

Lucas finds himself invited to the Christmas Party of Fate and decides to take Sarah along as his platonic date, but Sarah winds up taking a nasty fall after the storm shatters a window in front of her, and although she isn't terribly hurt, she agrees to go to the hospital with Lucas. Lucas winds up waiting at the hospital so he can give her a ride after the doctors are done, and a nurse casually informs him "She's fine, and so's the baby."

Lucas questions Sarah, and she reveals that her fiancé is the father, but he recently dumped her. She wants to keep the baby anyway but for some reason she doesn't think she can keep her job in Grand Springs after she has the baby (I... am genuinely not sure why.) and that she plans on moving to Denver. She doesn't really want to however, and Lucas doesn't want to lose the best secretary he's ever had, and he's always wanted to be a father, so he decides the best solution to the issue is for him and Sarah to have a marriage of convenience.

The premise makes me squint a bit and after the emodrama of the previous story it almost felt like some issues got resolved way too quickly/simply or were just glossed over (the power imbalance gives me major pause- besides Sarah being a vulnerable employee, there's also an age difference of thirteen years, and it's never really acknowledged) but I actually did like it overall. It's cute and the author does get across that the two characters respect and trust each other which, if you're going to get across anything about your pairing, you should get that across.
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