My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it
When a Lost Child warning blasts over the mall's PA system, toy store manager Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about five-year-old Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that Penny suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's own past suddenly confronts her. Never again will Carly become involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart. Before she has time to think it through, she agrees to a much-needed job as a nanny.
Dr. Ryan Tremaine knows he messed up his life. But this summer he will redeem himself. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan is dedicated to his sink-or-swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruiting Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.
Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?
My attention was grabbed right off the bat when the background to Ryan's daughter Penny was explained. I didn't expect his character to be so flawed, but at the same time I admired his resolve and determination to be a better father and improve his family dynamics as best he could. I also didn't expect there to be such a huge focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I definitely learned some new things in that regard. It was a brilliant move by the author to have a few scenes from Penny's point of view since it gave me a deeper understanding of her thought process. Carly could have come across as too happy and perfect, but instead she showed depth, compassion, intelligence, and even inner conflict. I felt like the emphasis on the relationship and interactions between the children and adults overshadowed the romance, and the foundation of friendship Ryan and Carly built was glossed over during the time lapses. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I did- this book is excellently written, but I did miss that aspect of Ryan and Carly's relationship. The drama is somewhat gritty but the characters' reactions and struggles come across as realistic and true-to-life.
(Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)