Wife in Name Only
Those readers who like marriage of convenience stories might enjoy this one. A sweet woman, a good man and two great kids made for a good old-fashioned story and this would have been a winner if two Big Secrets hadn’t spoiled a good thing.
Sue Ellen Fabian (what a name!) wants a family but is unable to have children. When Luke, her childhood friend and widower of her best friend, needs a wife in name only to keep custody of his two young boys, Sue Ellen marries him and gets the family she desires.
Sue Ellen (who can read a character with this name and not think Dallas?) is a great heroine. She’s competent, nice, thoughtful and a great mom to the boys. She instinctively knows what the boys need, and her scenes with them are touching. She’s the kind of woman every man would want for his wife and every woman would want to have as a friend.
Luke is an equally excellent hero. Good-looking and hard-working, Luke wants to be a good dad to his kids. His problem is the farm takes a lot of his time and leaves little time for his family. He doesn’t mean to be distracted and neglect Sue Ellen and the boys, he just is so consumed with work.
Sue Ellen and Luke’s relationship evolves into a sweet love affair. They make the perfect family with the boys, but they still have to fight the boys’ grandmother who wants custody. Sweet and likable characters and a good conflict. So far, the perfect romance, right? Well, here’s where it begins to go downhill.
As Sue Ellen and Luke are falling in love, each is hiding what they think is a Big Secret. To me, both secrets seemed silly, not Big. There was enough conflict in the plot with the grandmother to make this a good family story without silly Big Secrets. in addition, Luke’s misplaced guilt and Sue Ellen’s insecurity should have been cleared up long before they were.
The characters are generally well done, although I did have a few problems with them. The grandmother’s reason for wanting the boys was sympathetic even if her character wasn’t. Sue Ellen is supposed to have common sense, but her Big Secret undermines her at times. There’s also a plot point involving the dead wife that makes her less than sympathetic. Why can’t an ex-wife or dead wife be nice for a change?
Wife in Name Only started out great, stayed mostly great, and went downhill at the end with a pat ending as a bonus to the Big Secrets. There are two more books in this series, and I hope they will live up to the promise this one began with.