A Convenient Proposal
The second book in C. J. Carmichael’s Proposal trilogy features a love story that is neither particularly involving nor convincing, between two less-than-rational characters, alongside a much more interesting story about those two characters’ struggle to save a pair of innocent children from neglect and abuse. While the lead characters and the romance itself left me cold, the depressing plot about the children drew me in until the end.
Kelly Shannon is a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in Canmore, Alberta and shot a man in the line of duty – a man who had been holding a gun on her sister. Despite having been trained for this possibility, and the likelihood that she has seen it occur with other officers in her “years” with the RCMP, she insists on referring to Danny Mizzoni’s death at her hands as a homicide, and is so overwrought that she contemplates suicide. Instead she takes up a different hobby: stalking. Every night she drives to Danny and Sharon Mizzoni’s house and spies on Sharon and the children. She watches as Sharon drinks herself into a stupor night after night and sees the children neglected to the point of abuse. And so she buys groceries and leaves them on the porch, after which she gets chased off by Sharon, who is understandably freaked out by Kelly’s constant presence. She is terribly concerned about the children, but refuses to call Child Welfare because “she’d already taken their father away from them, and couldn’t stand to take their mother away, too.” Until, that is, a few paragraphs later, when she jumps at the chance to marry Danny’s handsome brother Mick so that the two can take custody of the children and provide them with a two-parent home. Apparently Kelly is only concerned that the children’s mother will be taken from them as long as she herself isn’t the one doing the taking.
For his part, Mick seems a lot more rational than his new bride, but it could simply be that he’s not as well developed as a character. We hear about his childhood a fair amount, but see little of him in his day-to-day adult life other than what relates to Sharon and the children. He has a job as a reporter, but never once do we even see him considering a column he’s writing, as opposed to Kelly, who thinks constantly about her work. He seems to be a good and concerned uncle to the kids acting with the best of intentions, but then does stupid things like believing a totally unconvincing Sharon when she says she’s going to straighten up and fly right, even going so far as to give her money with the implicit understanding that it’s not to be used for alcohol (after seeing that the kids are feeding themselves dry cereal and cola every night for dinner and playing in the snow in their pajamas, with no care or supervision from Sharon). This might seem somewhat forgivable, until you find out that he’s the son of an alcoholic mother himself, and ought to know better. But his crowning moment comes later in the book when he realizes that he’s fallen in love with Kelly (apparently because she’s so good with the kids; I couldn’t come up with any other reason), and immediately decides that they need to get a divorce. Why? Because she obviously hates him. Again, why? Because…he loves her? Unfortunately, this is the full rationale behind his thought process.
The saving grace of this book, if there is one, is the heartbreaking story of the children. These are not your cloying, too-cute-to-be-stomached, typical romance kids. Billy is a five year old who acts like an adult, taking care of his three year old sister Amanda, and their mom as well. Billy longs to know when “forever” will be over so that his dad can come home. Billy dreams of being with his mother when she’s not “sick”, with that icky smell, and the nightmares that send her to him in the middle of the night with inconsolable tears. He worries that no will look after her when he’s not there, that she will forget to take the pills for her headaches and the drinks for her “sore throat.” And Amanda, well, we don’t see much from her perspective, but we know that since her daddy died, and her mommy started drinking again, Amanda has stopped talking, and started wetting the bed every night. She panics whenever anyone tries to separate her from Billy, but she’s much more eager to latch on to new parents, and much less willing to spend time with Sharon. Billy and Amanda were far more likable and believable than Kelly and Mick, and they stole the show.
But this is supposed to be a love story, and the relationship between Mick and Kelly is never convincing. It’s believable enough that they like each other, but – especially with Kelly’s very early realization that she loves Mick – it’s never clear why, and there’s hardly enough of a relationship between them to justify her feelings. And, as mentioned earlier, I never did figure out why he developed feelings for her, other than the fact that she’s good with the kids, which is great for the purpose of their marriage, but hardly a solid cause for everlasting passion.
When the children’s plot starts to wind down in the latter half of the book, the story becomes driven by the increasingly irrational decisions of the leading couple. First, Kelly, after months of agonizing over taking a life, and denying that she will ever want to rejoin the police force, impulsively decides that that’s exactly what she wants to do, and that she’s completely okay with it, mentally and emotionally. Mick completely overreacts, saying as many hurtful things as he can think of over his brother’s death, and the possibility of subsequent deaths at Kelly’s hands. Why? No clue. He’s always made it clear that he never held Kelly responsible, and he has never been angry with her over his brother’s death. In reaction to this, Kelly decides that Mick hates her. Then Mick realizes that he’s acted like an ass, and that he’s fallen in love with her, and that, instead of apologizing (which he could, apparently, never bring himself to do), he has to break things off with her, because it’s clear that she hates him. None of these events make any sense, but since the story was running out of steam, the author apparently needed something to keep the plot moving, and this was the result.
Overall, this is not a book that I can recommend. While I found the children’s plight to be sad, and enough to draw me in to the story, there was nothing more to hold my interest as a romance reader, and plenty to deter it. Perhaps the other books in this series will feature more rational characters; I would try your luck with them instead and leave A Convenient Proposal on the shelf.