Child of Her Heart, by Cheryl St. John

4 Oct

Child of Her Heart, by Cheryl St. John

Part of the Silhouette Romance continuity Logan’s Legacy, Child of Her Heart has an overall nice mix of traditional romance genre elements and current social issues. Published in 2004, it deals with interracial relationships, societal expectations and prejudices, as well as romance genre staples such as the big misunderstanding and the not-so-accidental set up of the main characters by a well-intentioned third party.

I have read other books by Ms St Johns, and enjoyed most of them quite a bit, which is why I couldn’t resist getting this one during a jaunt to the Library, despite the fact that I usually have issues with continuities.

Back cover blurb:

After enduring so much tragedy, Meredith Malone celebrated her latest triumph—delivery of a healthy baby girl! Meredith’s dreams of motherhood had finally come true despite the fact that little Anna happened to be a different race than her mommy. To escape the media barrage due to the clinic’s obvious mix-up of donor sperm, Meredith headed to the shore… and into the arms of Justin Weber. This sexy attorney made the quiet nights and peaceful days away from the city ripe with a passion she’d never experienced. But was his mysterious, secretive nature hiding something? Or had past experience taught her to find something wrong with this man who was oh-so-right—as a husband and as a daddy?

As usual, the blurb hints at extra drama when there’s no such thing, so here’s my version: Meredith is a breast cancer survivor who, once recovered, decides to have a baby on her own—since the rat she was engaged to when diagnosed jumped ship even before her treatment. All goes well with conception and pregnancy, but upon delivery it’s discovered that at some point the lab made a mistake, and her baby is biracial. Meredith, who expected to be unable to bear children at all, doesn’t much care about that—except insofar as ensuring no more mix ups happen.

Unfortunately, Meredith’s mother is a bigot who is having a meltdown over the prospect of her daughter keeping a biracial child—never mind whether the baby is Meredith’s or not. As a result of this woman’s threats to sue the clinic, its board of directors decides to offer Meredith a paid vacation—away from the city, her mother, and reporters. What they don’t tell her is that the clinic’s lawyer is vacationing at the company owned resort where they are sending her.

Justin Weber, a widower and father of two young boys, has postponed his winter vacation with his boys twice, due to work emergencies. Neither his immediate boss and longtime friend, nor any member of the board, see fit to tell him that the nice young single mother struggling to handle the unwelcome stares and comments her child elicits, is one of the “cases” he is paid to handle for them—until after things between them have gotten way past friendly.

It should surprise no one that Meredith has just a leettle bit of a trust issue when she finds out exactly who Justin works for—particularly when he didn’t tell her about it the moment he learned who she was.

Some of the background elements for the main characters—widower, cancer survivor, scumbag ex-fiancé, insensitive mother, loyal best friend, etc—are common in the romance genre, but this novel feels fresh in its take of interracial couples, as well as its sensitive handling of the challenges that both biracial children and their parents face. It was interesting to see Justin’s original perspective when witnessing Meredith’s discomfort over people’s reactions to Anna’s ethnicity—his assumption being that she had had to have some sort of emotional and sexual relationship with a black man before him.

I liked the characterization, and not just Meredith and Justin. Chaney, Meredith’s best friend, had little screen time but is a quirky, interesting character. Mauli, the live-in nanny for Justin’s boys, is a bit too perfect, but still rather likeable. Jonah and Lamond, Justin’s children, feel natural and real both for their ages and their circumstances, having lost their mother a few years prior to the events narrated in the novel.

For once, my main issue is not with the big misunderstanding. I felt Ms St John set it up well, and since it wasn’t stretched over weeks or even days, but barely twelve hours, I wasn’t forced to consider either of the protagonists a liar and then overcome that feeling upon his or her redemption; they were both played by circumstances and timing.

No, my issue is with the resolution of that conflict. It seemed…well, it truly felt anticlimactic. As much as I complain about excessive melodrama, I feel that in this case it was just the opposite. There was no big revelation, no big scene, dramatic gesture… nothing. It felt flat, frankly.

And then there’s the epilogue.

Have I mentioned that, something like ninety nine times out of a hundred, I dislike epilogues? There are notable exceptions, it’s true, but sadly, this one is not one of them. It honestly felt too much like a set up for future books in the continuity, with a parade of characters showing up for no other reason than to be introduced to the reader.

In the end, Child of Her Heart is a sweet romance. 7 out of 10

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