His Secret Son
I was so excited about this book you guys, so excited. I was expecting a fun, if cheesy, trope-romp – we have a secret baby AND a military hero. I also appreciated that both the heroine and hero are people of color. Awesome, I am all for it. But it was all smacked down in the prologue, and just got worse from there. The story could have absolutely been good, but the writing in His Secret Son was so unbearable I couldn’t do anything but rage-read.
Our heroine, Bristol Lockett, is in Paris to paint (and apparently work as a waitress, even though she’s being bankrolled by her wealthy artist father), and runs into our hero, Laramie Cooper, while she’s on break in her dinner/restaurant/cafe. Personally, I’d be annoyed if someone came over and bugged me on my break, but I guess it works if he’s really hot? They chat for a minute, Laramie and his Navy SEAL buddies ask for her to be their waitress (even though it’s someone else’s section), and the chatting and flirting continue. Bristol and Laramie agree to meet up later, hit it off some more, and then head back to her place for a three-day-sexathon. After Laramie’s leave is up and he’s off on some other mission, Bristol finds out she’s pregnant, finds out he’s been declared Killed in Action, moves to the States, has her baby, becomes a top-selling painter worth a decent chunk of change, and (kinda sorta) moves on with her life.
But it turns out Laramie wasn’t KiA, he was a prisoner in Syria, kept and tortured for eleven months. He’s in New York on leave (forced, apparently, by his superior), and sees an art exhibit with a familiar name attached. And so they are reunited – when Bristol faints in the middle of her art show on seeing Laramie alive. And thus the ridiculousness continues.
From there on, it’s pretty much a circular conversation of “I want to know my son,” “I tried to tell you about it,” “I’m here now and want to help,” and “I don’t need your help, we are doing just fine.” It’s exhausting, y’all. And on top of that, even the kid is annoying. He’s basically a normal two-year-old, but Bristol and Laramie are so proud of the fact that he’s in a good mood, or that his worst cranky moments are when he’s tired. He talks (kinda) like a toddler, but he’s just so… boring. He’s basically an inanimate object with minor dialogue brought into the world specifically to get the couple together. Ugh.
In the end, though, it’s mainly the actual writing that gets on my ever-loving last nerve. It’s just… bad. The dialogue doesn’t sound like anything people would actually say, and the book is filled with situations that make no sense in anything resembling the real world. The story is really a mix and match of genres, to the point it just feels like the author didn’t really care, and was just trying to tick a bunch of boxes in romance-bingo. It’s all just… no.
When the characters first meet?
“No. I’ve never been married. What about you?”
“I approached you because I didn’t see a ring on your finger.”
When meeting a new (and unimportant) character?
“You’re Colin Kusac, a close friend of my father’s.”
When talking about Laramie’s fellow SEALs?
“The five of you seem close.”
“We are. In fact, we’re like brothers. Viper, Flipper, Bane and I attended the naval academy together and immediately became the best of friends. Mac is four years older and finished the academy ahead of us. He’s been a SEAL longer and likes to think he’s looking out for us.”
It’s all so painful to read. First of all, ‘show, don’t tell’ is a saying for a reason. Please stop telling me things. I don’t need to know that she delivered their food a short while later and watched them eat all of it. Bristol is their waitress. I’m assuming she delivered their food, and kept an eye on the table. The way it’s written, it just sounds creepy and stalker-like. And secondly, no one talks like that. That is not how conversations work, and not how dialogue should work. If someone told me they decided to start hitting on me because I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, I’d honestly be creeped out. Yay for not wanting to be party to adultery, I guess? Again with the creepy.
And speaking of creepy, let me tell you what made me particularly uncomfortable. So Bristol and Laramie spend three days together, mostly having sex, and then his leave is up. Bristol finds out she’s pregnant and tries to get in touch with him, so he knows about the baby (kudos to Bristol for wanting to make sure he knows. Good on you, girl). Bristol’s friend, Dionne, knows someone in the State Department who finds out Laramie has been declared KiA (Would someone in the State Department be able to share that information? Really?). Bristol decides the best plan for her unborn child is have Dionne and Dionne’s husband, who works for a judge, to FAKE A MARRIAGE LICENSE TO A DEAD MAN to share his last name, and keep the baby from growing up illegitimate.
Sigh. Where do I even start? I really don’t think the State Department shares that kind of information, but if Laramie wasn’t on a classified mission (which, as a SEAL, he was), sure. Illegitimacy isn’t really a big deal these days, at least in most of the US, and it’s supposed to be a contemporary romance, but Bristol grew up without knowing her father and has daddy issues, so okay. But. BUT. YOU CANNOT FAKE A MARRIAGE LICENSE AND EXPECT THIS TO WORK. The logistics of this plan are utterly ridiculous. If there was a marriage license on file (which according to the story there was), the military would have been told, and Bristol would have both been eligible for benefits as the surviving spouse, and WOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT LARAMIE WAS ALIVE.
The entire premise doesn’t work, and this is from someone who read Taken by the T. Rex and enjoyed caveman time-travel romance, Transcendence. I am no stranger to a ridiculous premise, I enjoy them most of the time, but every layer of this book is built on such a patchy foundation that it crumbled by page thirty. The only reason it’s not getting a full F is because it’s readable, if barely.
If you don’t mind being spoon-fed everything, go for it, I guess? Or if horrible dialogue isn’t a turn off for you. Or if you can conveniently ignore gaping plotholes a T. Rex could stomp through.