For years, Lydia has dreamed of overseas mission work, the way some women dream of getting married. How ironic that she needs a husband to finally make it happen. She's always been practical, however—even if it means a marriage-of-convenience so she can finally do the work she’s called to do. Gabe needs a wife at exactly the right time. Plus, he’s kind of hot.
After a spectacularly failed marriage, Gabe isn't looking for a wife. He and his nine-year-old daughter are doing just fine on their own. But he's happy to negotiate a practical arrangement with Lydia in order to move into a new and more rewarding job. After all, a marriage like theirs won't end up changing his life very much.
They both have their priorities, and marriage just isn't one of them. But their carefully planned relationship doesn’t exactly go as planned...
Despite the use of tropes that usually rub me the wrong way, Noelle Adams' Willow Park series keeps getting better. This is book three in the series, but each book can be read as a stand alone. Lydia was introduced in book two and although she was in one very quick scene, I was eager to read her story.
First Trope: Lydia is 27 and still a virgin. The reader does not know this until her character is well established and her personality along with her commitment to her faith makes this trope realistic. She is not opposed to sex, she just had other priorities in her life other than dating. In fact, Lydia is such a great heroine because she isn't moping around, pissing and moaning about her less than awesome dating life. She has her work (law) and her dreams of mission work in India, she has a great family and a network of friends - she is a complete person before the romance (AMEN!).
Second Trope: marriage of convenience plot. Adams' switches up this trope (the same plot with twists was used in the first book Married for Christmas) by having the marriage be the best option to both Lydia and Gabe in furthering their goals in working missions in India - neither is in a position of greater advantage over the other. And the reasons for the marriage is based on the traditional views of their church - both Gabe and Lydia are frustrated over the fact that their marital status bars them from doing their mission work.
Third Trope: plot moppet, in the form of Gabe's nine year old daughter. Ellie was drawn realistically - she neither was insta-pals with Lydia, nor did she scheme to be rid of Lydia. Ellie warms up to Lydia towards the very end of the story, but that is after months of awkwardness and push-pull of getting to know her step-mom.
What I really like in this story is that Gabe and Lydia work out their differences by being adults and talking. No BIG MISUNDERSTANDING, no pouting, no reading the other's mind - very refreshing. Also Gabe is one hot beta hero, and goddess knows we need more betas in romance. He is a great dad, and although he is a successful businessman, he doesn't throw his money around and actually works during the week (mostly at his home office as Ellie is on school vacation and he wanted to spend time with her). In a sea of alpha billionaires, I could go for more Gabes in the genre.
One big issue I had with the story is that, as typical in contemporary romances, Gabe's first wife was written as a cold, superficial bitch. They are divorced and she sees Ellie only a few times a year. Once Gabe opens up to Lydia about his first marriage, you can see that the divorce was the best option rather than continuing in an unhappy marriage. She wasn't the demon child she was made out to be in the first part of the book. Look authors - I don't need to see the ex-wife as a monster in order to accept the new love in the hero's life - STOP IT!
Overall, a solid 4 stars. I am going into the next book in the series (currently the latest one which came out in March) tonight after the kids go to bed.