The Perfect Family
Grade : B-

Jessica Clayton is alone in the world. With the exception of her dog Ben and her friend and business partner Sol, Jessica has no true family. Or so she thinks. Her father is long since deceased and her mother left when she was a baby. She is confused when she receives an invitation to a family reunion and thinks it couldn’t possibly be hers. Think again, Jessica. Several years before Jessica was born, her father, Harding Clements, discovered that his wife was having an affair with his brother and that the brother had stolen money for the ranch in order to purchase some bearer bonds, hoping to get rich. Tragedy struck and Harding felt he had no choice but to run for his life. He did, but eventually remarried and had Jessica. Jessica is raised with only dreams of a family, by a drunken father haunted by his past.

Along with the invitation comes a visit from the family lawyer, a smooth-talking snake charmer named Alex Kelley. Alex has been sent by the family to convince Jessie to come to the reunion and get a DNA test. Jessie, while skeptical, agrees. If it means she will have a family then she’s game to try. At first glance, Alex seems like he’s the hero of the story, but soon we meet Ross Macleod. Ross is the adopted son of Sarah Clements, who is Jessie’s aunt. He also the biological son of Sarah’s deceased husband, but he’s not biologically related to Jesie. He’s part Native American and has always felt like an outsider in the Clements home. Once Jessie sees Ross, it’s pretty much all over for her and Alex never stands a chance.

Jessie had a trauma earlier in her life and while she brings it up and is wary of men because of it, it does not overshadow or color her relationship with Ross. She recognizes she is attracted to him and does want to pursue it. Kudos to Ms. Potter on this; it could have been a very different story had she made Jessie a bitter woman. Jessie is full of hope, and that completely shines through.

While Sarah Clements and the rest of the family are happy to have found Jessie, they have an ulterior motive – they’d like to get their hands on those bearer bonds. Due to will stipulations, there has to be a majority vote to sell the family ranch, and the family could use the money. They want to sway Jessie’s vote and find those bonds as well. The more she finds out, the more her life is in danger, and the more she feels betrayed by her new family. She is constantly told that whichever way she votes, they are glad to have found her. She hardly believes it and frankly, I didn’t blame her. Alex and Jessie’s cousins Marc (a slick congressmen) and Cullen (a slick…no, just kidding!) are convinced she knows where the bonds are. But do they, or any of Jessie’s other cousins, want the bonds badly enough to kill for them? Since accidents are following her everywhere, it seems that at least one member of the family will stop at nothing. Aside from her dog and Sol, she’s not sure whom to trust. Even Ross has kept some family secrets from her.

Jessie said that she had hoped to find the perfect family and was told that no families are perfect. The Clements were certainly dysfunctional, and while it was reasonable that they were at odds with each other over some things, I never sensed a bond between them all. As such, it was hard to believe they all cared about each other when they didn’t seem to even like one another. It was also realistic that not all the family issues were resolved at the end; in some instances a more definitive resolution would have helped, particular in the sub-plot involving Marc and his daughter April. Sarah and Ross’ true affection for Jessie was a strong point; had the three of them functioned together as a loving group it would have been even stronger. As a whole, I could take the Clements or leave them, but Sarah, Jessie and Ross hold the story together.

Jessie is a heroine who is strong but a dreamer. Ross has issues, but it’s easy to see that he is a good guy at heart. While their story didn’t finish off as tidily as I would have liked, I still enjoyed watching them fall in love. All in all, The Perfect Family is a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Reviewed by Lori-Anne Cohen

Grade: B-

Book Type: Romantic Suspense

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : January 10, 2001

Publication Date: 2001

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