Family At Last
Family at Last is a sweet story and one of the more pleasant recent series romances I’ve read. While it’s not quite strong enough as it could be, it’s not a bad way to spend some time. Be mindful, though: the book’s best character is a young boy and not the hero or heroine.
Jarrod Morrison is a bachelor in his mid-forties with no family and no prospects on the horizon. Wanting to share his life and his success with someone, he decided to pursue adoption. Unable to adopt in this country due to his age and unmarried status, he turned to foreign adoption, finally bringing home a seven-year-old Russian orphan named Sasha. The transition to American life hasn’t been easy for the boy, especially since he doesn’t speak any English.
Determined to help his son acclimate to his new life, Jarrod hires language expert Nina Lockhart to tutor Sasha. Nina is a native Russian, having come to the United States when she was a teenager during the last days of the Soviet Union. She comes to Jarrod’s home in a small North Carolina town and moves into his guest house, quickly becoming part of the family. Sasha soon flourishes under her attention, while Jarrod and Nina grow closer together.
The back cover mentions that the characters travel back to Russia, something that doesn’t come up until the book is more than half over. I can see why the copywriter decided to reveal it though, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much to say about the storyline. This is the kind of character-based book that focuses mainly on the interaction between the characters. In other words, not a lot happens. It’s a low-key read dealing with the everyday lives of these three likeable people. Sasha slowly comes out of his shell and grows accustomed to this new life that’s so different from his old one in the orphanage, where there was never enough food or attention. The author does a nice job showing the reader what he’s feeling without any of the book taking place in his point of view. I actually felt he was the most vividly drawn character in the book. There are a number of emotional moments and heartwarming scenes. Once the story does move to Russia, Nina has to deal with her past and her feelings about her family, a subplot that’s nicely done. I haven’t read all that many romance novels where even part of the story takes place in Russia. While there isn’t a huge amount of local atmosphere or detail, the different setting made for a nice change of pace.
It’s a nice read, but not a great one, though it took me to a while to figure out what was lacking. The characters are likable and sympathetic, but their development is entirely on the surface. They lack depth. They’re nice company for a few hours but don’t make a strong enough impression to have a lasting impact. The love story feels perfunctory. It just sort of happens, without much buildup or believable emotion. There’s also a secondary romance involving Jarrod’s friend Earl, who has muscular dystrophy. It begins with a great deal of potential, but is rushed and barely developed, ending up much less than it could have been.
Because of its weaknesses, Family at Last isn’t a book that I would necessarily say, “Go buy this,” but it was an easy, agreeable way to spend a couple of hours. Romance readers can certainly do far worse than this sweet little book.