Duty or Desire
Duty or Desire is a perfectly fine mid-level contemporary romance in which the woman in the relationship is the billionaire and
The closely knit Westmoreland family and their extended clan have gathered to celebrate the housewarming for Bane Westmoreland and his new wife Crystal when an elderly couple holding a baby knocks upon their front door.
They’re looking for close family friend Sheriff Peterson (Pete) Higgins; the baby is his late brother’s child, nine-month old Ciara, and the elderly couple are his late sister-in-law’s parents. They’ve ceded full custody of Ciara to Pete, unable to care for her any longer due to health issues. The single playboy has no idea how to parent; even five months later, he’s handed off most of the raising of Ciara to Bonnie, a family friend.
But when Bonnie’s sister is diagnosed with breast cancer, Bonnie needs to be with her, so she suggests a replacement for her services; someone she knows from church, a recent North Carolina transplant, who has gotten on with Ciara and with Bonnie alike, and also has childminding experience.
That woman’s name is Myra Hollister, and she’s going to be Pete’s live-in nanny. But can Pete keep it platonic with this gorgeous young woman? He tries to dismiss her, but matchmaking Bonnie will not be put off.
Myra’s got problems of her own. Running away from her abusive, threatening brother, she’s been living hand to mouth and trying to accumulate some savings while waiting out the final months before she turns twenty-five and can assume control of Hollister Corporation, her father’s multi-million dollar company. Baron, her half-brother, will do anything to stop her from reaching her birthday and taking over the family company.
Myra and Pete have a lot to work through considering their lousy romantic history (Myra had one younger, immature boyfriend and it didn’t work out; Pete has been a playboy since the death of his fiancée, Ellen, who was murdered by her stalker) and the looming threat of Baron. Can they make a home for themselves in spite of it all?
Duty or Desire is classic Brenda Jackson. Family angst, second chance romance and babies blend together in a Harlequin-esque formula that doesn’t quite circumvent the author’s bad habits of showing and not telling in the narrative, and her flat turns of dialogue.
I liked Myra, who has an attitude and strength to her in spite of her secret-keeping. Pete is all stubbornness, trying to prevent himself from opening up, then trying to stop Myra from getting hurt. His scars when it came to Ellen were understandable, but so much of the narrative repeats his family’s desperate attempts at trying to get him to see that he wasn’t responsible for her death that it felt like monomania.
The romance is one of those connections that suffers under the weight of being conducted under a Big Secret. Myra’s omitted the truth about Baron to everyone, but especially from Pete, so if big lies turn you off then this book will leave you as cold as an April rainstorm. Otherwise, it’s nice to watch them struggle to form a family unit with little Ciara.
Sadly, the Baron subplot just provides an excuse to keep Myra and Pete apart – Baron doesn’t rise to any sort of formidable challenge, and nothing really interesting happens when it comes to the inheritance of the company. Perhaps he’s to be redeemed somehow down the line, but this sapped a lot of the strength of the plot. Further points off for a facepalm-worthy subplot in which Myra refuses to tell Pete about Baron for pages and pages, leading to the Obvious Big Misunderstanding.
In the main, the secondary characters work, but Ciara comes off as flat even for a barely one-year-old. But this is ameliorated by the existence of the wonderfully fiery Bonnie.
Sadly, the wooden phrasing and telling-not-showing nature of Jackson’s writing – which was evident in the last book of hers that I read – is present in this book as well. We’re told people are fast friends instead of observing them together; we’re told about how bad Myra and Pete feel about their secrets and how deeply they lust after each other, but we don’t always feel it.
Duty or Desire is an okay contemporary with a nice romance and some sweet moments, but ‘okay’ isn’t going to get a higher grade.