The Butler's Daughter
The Butler’s Daughter is the first in the two part The Collingwood Heirs series. It’s a suspense/mystery/marriage-of-convenience story featuring a heroine who is a silky little bit of fluff (but she’s not afraid to pack a Glock) and a tall, dark, tortured, and taciturn hero. If you want the short review, here it is: Not Very Interesting.
Juliana Goodhew is a wedding planner turned nanny to Cort Collingwood, the infant son of Ross and Lexi Collingwood. Ross and Lexi’s first child was kidnapped and never returned, and when Lexi found she was pregnant, she hid the pregnancy and gave Cort to Juliana, the daughter of the Collingwood family butler. Juliana is driving to return Cort to his mother and father, but she is delayed – a good thing, as it turns out. Ross and Lexi are killed in an explosion that badly injures Juliana’s father.
Enter The Guardian, Hunter Sinclair. Hunter is rich, and powerful, the heir to a hotel empire. He was Ross’s best friend in college, and he’s Cort’s godfather. Hunter vows to find the killers and to keep Cort and Juliana safe. To do this, he proposes to marry Juliana and pretend that Cort is their child from an affair.
The first part of this short book is taken up with long stretches of musing, angsting, and moping around on the part of Hunter and Juliana. Hunter is a tortured soul (aren’t they all?). His parents’ marriage was unhappy, his sister has been married (unhappily of course) many times, and he’d planned never to marry to avoid that unhappiness. The arrangement between him and Juliana doesn’t count since it isn’t a real marriage. Of course that old devil sexual tension takes over, Juliana has a nightmare one night, Hunter holds her, and pretty soon the marriage of convenience is a thing of the past. The consummation of the marriage leads to lots and lots of musing and angsting on Hunter’s part (and here I thought women were the ones who were always analyzing their feelings).
Juliana is tortured too. Her father blames her for the death of her little brother, who was killed sliding down a banister while under her care (she was six at the time), but despite her problems, Juliana is not self-hating the way that Hunter is. And when someone wants to kill her and Cort, she takes a Glock for protection and doesn’t get all girly when she handles the gun. Sensible woman.
Many short series romances can be read in one sitting, but this one was a chore to finish. There are awkward phrases and purple prose scattered liberally through the book. “‘I didn’t knock,’ she said with mettle in her tone” (say what???). Every one of these odd turns of phrase and purple patches jerked me right out of the book.
The large cast of suspects kept me guessing who murdered Lexi and Ross until the last minute. There were a couple of very obvious ones, so naturally it wasn’t either of them, and truth be told, the secondary characters were so numerous that they were confusing. Finally the real murderer showed up and, in the way of all good baddies, spills the story to Juliana, thus giving her time to formulate an escape. Romance novels simply abound with Stupid Criminals.
According to my fellow reviewer Leigh Thomas, the second book in this series, Operation Bassinet, is much better. I hope so – this book didn’t engage me on any level.