By Julia London
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Kyra Kokinos was once a hopeful, single twentysomething in New York City with a promising career as an assistant editor for a fitness magazine and an active social life. Unprotected sex with a friend of the groom at her boss’s destination wedding left her pregnant. The guy involved is not returning her phone calls or texts. When she tracks him down at his workplace, he offers her money for an abortion. He has no interest in becoming a father. It might interfere with his wedding plans to his girlfriend of two years. More than six years later, Kyra is a single mother working the day shift as a server in an upscale restaurant in Lake Haven and hoping her tips are enough to pay the incompetent babysitter who is all she can afford. She spends the rest of her time caring for her bright, energetic, six-year-old daughter Ruby, worrying that she is not a good mother, and studying for her real estate license in hopes of making a better life for Ruby.
Dax Bishop is a reclusive curmudgeon who designs and makes custom furniture. He left his job as a paramedic in New Jersey after his ex-wife, who left him after twelve years of marriage for one of his female co-workers, announced her pregnancy. The infertility treatments finally worked. Dax is thrilled that he is about to become a father, but he is not happy that he will be forced to share parenting responsibilities with his ex’s partner. Still, he is determined to be an involved dad. With all this on his mind and his flourishing business, Dax just wants to be left alone with his dog Otto, and he is not pleased with the woman and child who are his new, noisy neighbors. He finds Ruby’s frequent intrusions into his space particularly bothersome.
However, the ebullient Ruby with her non-stop chatter is a match for the grumpiest neighbor and she soon wins Dax’s affection. He has been aware of Kyra’s charms from the beginning, and mother and child are soon part of his life. Dax and Kyra move from tentative friendship to a comfortable relationship as lovers. When Ruby needs surgery to remove a brain tumor, Dax suggests that he and Kyra marry so that Ruby will be covered by his insurance. Kyra loves Dax, but she must decide if she wants a marriage based on the need for Dax to save her and Ruby.
My favorite Julia London books are her contemporaries, and this one has the likable but credibly flawed characters and emotionally satisfying situations that make London a favorite. Kyra’s concerns about paying the bills, relying too often on fast food, and delaying auto maintenance reflect the issues many people face. I found the ordinariness of these character’s lives refreshing. They live in rented cottages, not luxury homes or penthouses. Dax’s problems are not economic, but his hurt pride and his dismay that his life hasn’t turned out the way he planned are rooted in reality. Cheers to London that Dax’s ex and her partner are neither demonized nor valorized.
I really liked the way the relationship between Dax and Kyra developed. They are aware of one another physically, and these feelings intensify. But they also grow to like each other, to enjoy each other’s company, to share each other’s lives. Ruby is a real kid, although a bit precocious. She is sweet and saucy, funny--sometimes unintentionally--excited about her world, and totally endearing, but sometimes she is cross and disobedient and talkative enough to make a parent long for bedtime. Her relationship with Dax is heartwarming and as important to the story as the relationship of Dax and Kyra.
Suddenly Engaged is the third book in the Lake Haven series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. I had not read the earlier books, and I had no difficulty with this one. If you like contemporary romance that evokes laughter, tears, and empathy, you should add this one to your TBR list.