If you’re a fan of sexy small town contemporary romances that cover the range of tried and true tropes (marriage of convenience, enemies to lovers, best friend’s sibling etc.) with likable characters and low angst plots, then Noelle Adams should be on your reading list. Though she has written a few outliers (case in point Late Fall, a romance that tackles the realities of aging, and as Clare Kent, she’s written a host of erotic romances including the science fiction series Hold) she returns time and again to what’s become her niche. Single Dad is the third story in her Milford College series set at a liberal arts school and is as good an example as any of why her writing is so appealing to many.
Max is a recently hired art teacher, a handsome man in his late thirties with a fourteen-year-old daughter Freddie. Katrina is a research librarian in her late twenties who sometimes works late and seems to always be passing by Max’s classroom on Tuesday evenings when she finishes her shift and he finishes his class. He’s always got a gaggle of students around him, mostly female, yet somehow their eyes always connect as she passes by. When a planned exhibition of Max’s students’ art related to books results in Max and Katrina working together to set up the exhibit in the library, it’s also a chance to explore the attraction between them. They both have reasons for keeping things simple and enjoying a no strings attached affair but when their feelings start to deepen will they break things off or find their way to a happy ever after?
It’s easy to like both of these characters and Max’s daughter, who plays prominently in the story. Katrina meets a young teenager who calls herself Rika in her library who hangs out every Tuesday evening waiting for her dad to pick her up. It’s obvious to the reader right away that Rika and Freddie are the same person, though Katrina becomes friends with both Rika and Max independent of their father/daughter relationship and it’s not until later in the second half that they all discover how they know each other. Katrina has bonded with the young woman over a love of books and reading and introduced her to some Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott favorites – fans of those authors will appreciate the shoutouts.
Max’s baggage is pretty simple. He’s divorced and his daughter is his main focus in life. As far as he’s concerned, everyone else comes second, including any new woman he dates, and he isn’t looking for a serious relationship. He shares custody with his ex-wife, though Freddie only sees her on alternate weekends, and she lives with her dad and goes to school locally. Max is attracted to Katrina when he first sees her (he’s relieved to find out she’s faculty and and not an off-limits student) but clear up front that his daughter is priority number one.
As for Katrina, she has always been in the position of putting her partner’s needs ahead of her own and when her last boyfriend ditched her, she vowed to make her priorities come first. This means getting a second master’s degree, getting her own house, getting a dog and not letting a man distract her from those goals. Starting a sex-only fling with Max is the easy part. The hard part is when she realizes that she’s starting to want more, and worries that she will compromise her own dreams – again – for a man.
The sex scenes are pretty steamy. Max is a talented and giving lover and Katrina appreciates how he puts her pleasure first. Their initial discussion about why they don’t want anything serious sticks in both their minds and becomes the impediment to sharing how their feelings are changing. And then there is Rika/Freddie to consider as well. All would be cleared up with some honest conversation but then the reader wouldn’t get the satisfaction of the emotional angst and heartfelt confessions that lead to a very satisfying happy ending. Single Dad is a predicable yet enjoyable romance.