It’s getting very hard to judge a book by its cover nowadays. With many publishers attempting to imitate the success brought on by cartoon covers, it’s not only difficult to tell the books apart, it’s almost impossible for every book to match the cartoon/light tone the covers suggest.
Husband Material has a fluffy opening that matches its frothy, hot pink cover. Riley P. Lombard III runs into and practically totals the car of Kellie Summers. When Riley gets a psychic flash of Kellie in a wedding dress he immediately panics. He doesn’t have any desire to be married again and he’s determined to get Kellie out of his life as soon as possible. To that end he sends her a fully loaded, brand new Lexus SUV. Kellie is a divorced mom of two, owner of a newly opened copy shop and very irritated to find the bright red vehicle in her driveway. She’s determined to make sure Riley knows how she feels. All fits the cartoon contemporary to a T. Super rich man with psychic gift fumbles his attempts to avoid the spunky, single mom. Let the hi-jinks begin.
While the fluffy and frothy can be appealing for the right reader, Ms. Ireland offers her readers so much more. A few sentences here and there to subtly change the dynamic, common sense dialogue between Kellie and Riley, and real baggage in both their lives made this a thoroughly engrossing novel.
When Kellie returns the vehicle she makes clear to Riley the realities of having children. Much as she’d love to have that SUV there’s no way to do so that would give them a realistic view of life. Riley actually listens to her. That’s where the true characterization begins. He isn’t a rich superstud avoiding commitment because he’s a rich superstud. He had concrete reasons for dreading an entanglement with a woman he’s found instantly appealing. Those reasons are why he spends so much time trying to avoid Kellie (fortunately without much success). Until the end of the book his character doesn’t hit one false note.
Kellie is likewise someone many readers will be able to relate to. Though she reciprocates Riley’s feelings of attraction, she’s also perfectly aware that he has problems. When Riley tells her he wants to be friends, then kisses her, then backs off, she confronts him:
“This is confusing the hell out of me, Riley. No offense, but the last time I saw you, you were fleeing my house like I had the ebola virus. So I figured that was that. So much for Riley. And then you send my daughter a piano. And then, when I called to thank you, I discover you weren’t even in the country…your secretary told me.”
These are just the things any woman should ask a man who’s blowing hot and cold. Unfortunately far too many romance heroines don’t; instead they are too frequently doormats, something Kellie is emphatically not.
Riley and Kellie’s relationship involves the reader because of its slow-building evolution. Where the book falters and threw me was in its last chapters. Suddenly both characters were acting in inexplicable ways. Yes, Riley is stressing out but his sudden departure comes out of left field. And Kellie makes some choices that not only didn’t fit with how her character was initially drawn but made her almost unlikable. If this book had ended fifty pages before it did, this would have rated Desert Isle Keeper Status. As it is, I recommend you read it for the wonderfully developed romance and well-drawn characters and suggest you try to forget the last few chapters as soon as you’ve read them.