The Best Laid Plans
Is is a truth universally acknowledged that every heroine (and hero) of a Harlequin Superromnance must be in want of a baby. But few of these couples go about it as directly, and few romances describe the emotional side of it so realistically and in such down-to-earth fashion as Sarah Mayberry’s The Best Laid Plans.
Alexandra Knight is a highly successful corporate lawyer aged 38, who is completely shattered when she runs into her former boyfriend (whom she split from only 18 months ago!) pushing his baby son in a stroller. Thing is, she and Jacob split because he utterly refused considering a family, and there he is. After a visit to her gynaecologist that same day, Alex panics. She has always wanted a family, but now it seems that unless she starts one really quickly she may have missed out on her chance altogether. Because she is in a deep emotional crisis, she spills the beans in front of her colleague and racquetball partner Ethan. She is immediately sorry – their relationship is usually quite distant, and she is embarrassed at her seeming desperation – but Ethan proves a better friend than expected.
Ethan Stone is a divorce lawyer who sees lots of humanity at their nastiest, and got deeply burned in the divorce of his own 12-year marriage some years earlier. So in spite of what you might expect from his excessively good looks and his reputation as office stud, he lives a fairly quiet life brightened by his love for cooking, some sessions at racquetball and frequent visits to his brother, whose small sons he adores. Alex’s confession that she longs for a family and fears it may be too late shocks Ethan to the core, for because remarrying is out of the question for him, he has spent the last few years in a bubble of wilfully ignoring his own childless state, and now he is forced to consider what the costs of his adamant stance really are.
What I loved about this novel is the realistic, unsentimental and nonjudgmental stance it takes towards people who consider drastic steps of different sorts to achieve the families they long for. Both Alex and, to a lesser extent, Ethan (partly because he’s got more fertile years ahead) are decent people who find themselves in a situation where they must face very difficult choices. They may have made some mistakes in the past, but the novel makes it very clear that mostly they just had plain bad luck in being with partners that were wrong for them during decisive years, and not finding someone else since then. Just what can happen to anyone. There is no easy moral high ground, instead there are painful decisions, and the pain is shown clearly.
At the same time the novel is very heartwarming in the depicting the slowly growing friendship and love between Alex and Ethan, and the relationship between Ethan and his brother’s family. What felt a bit meagre to me, and is a reason that keeps this book from being a DIK, is how isolated Alex feels in contrast. She is not supposed to be isolated, I think, as several women friends of hers are mentioned. She is just never shown to interact with them.
I enjoyed the ending very much. It’s not arrived at easily or painlessly, but when it comes it’s very sweet and satisfactory, without being in-your-face sugary. (You’ll know what I mean when you read it!)