Desert Isle Keeper
Kiss and Make Up
Divorced Rand Waddell persuades his ex-wife Kat to let him move into the basement apartment of their British Columbia house to be their children’s new nanny. He wants to prove he’s changed and win back his family; she’s skeptical and wants to avoid raising false hopes in their two kids. If it’s hard to write the story of a couple falling in love, it’s even harder to write the story of a couple falling in love again after credibly falling out of love. I strongly recommend Kiss and Make Up for its realistic depiction of two adults navigating gender roles, finances, and time constraints in the pursuit of an HEA for the whole family.
Rand, determined to be the ideal 1950s-style provider husband, took on foreign journalism assignments for British Columbia’s largest paper, boosting his prestige and paycheck but leaving Kat alone, even for the births of both of their children. Kat’s desire to go back to work at her survey company chafed Rand, and the tragic loss of close family friends was too much for their fracturing relationship. Two years, a new career, and therapy later, Rand says he’s changed – but Kat doesn’t know what to make of the man who resented her dreams and might have even cheated on her. Is he the man she fell in love with, or the lousy husband he became?
I loved the realistic interactions between Kat and Rand as they come to terms with their previous relationship and cautiously establish their new one. Sometimes they fight, tossing hurtful insults, but they learn to apologize and focus on making progress on their issues. Sometimes they remember the good times, and sometimes they cry about the bad ones. Though this book was originally published in the 1990s, the conversations still feel real, and capture the sort of genuine struggles inside so many modern marriages. Why didn’t you make me feel appreciated? Would you just listen to what I really want instead of assuming you know?
Although Rand has already made up his mind to try to save the relationship before the book starts, he still has changes to go through or to demonstrate to Kat, and the author shows these very believably. Kat wanted more romance (silk for her birthday, not new car seat covers); Rand learns to deliver. They fought and sniped; Rand learns to apologize. One criticism I have is that while Rand shows a maturation and change, Kat mostly seems to change in her ability to accept the new Rand. She is definitely – as both characters say – “bitchy” when pulled into arguments and learns to swallow some of her more bitter comment. Overall, though, the collapse of the marriage is too much Rand’s fault. The story would have benefited from more of Kat recognizing and overcoming some flaws, too.
If you shy away from child characters in books, never fear – the two kids, Katie and Nathan, are neither precious nor plot-moppets. Obviously, kids are central to the lives of parents, and Katie and Nathan’s need for caregivers gives Rand the opportunity to move in in the first place. Subsequent scenes, however, are realistic (Kat gets mad that Rand used all the flour to make cookies with the kids; they worry over who’s going to take the kids on custodial weekends now that Rand lives in) rather than cutesy.
I also mark the book down to an A- because Rand’s backstory, once we finally learn it, felt over-the-top. Rand could have had all of his traditionalist/gender role issues without such an extreme childhood. Still, it’s nowhere near enough of a problem to knock the book out of DIK range.
This review is based on the original Loveswept paperback of this book which has been on my keeper shelf for a decade. If there are formatting or other issues in the new digital re-release. I don’t know about them. There’s also a new audiobook on Audible. Whatever format you prefer, do give this book a try. It’s a true buried treasure.
I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.