Baby Under the Christmas Tree

Teresa Carpenter
December 2012, Series Romance
HR #4355, $4.99, 192 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373178514

Grade: B
Sensuality: Kisses

You know, I almost didn’t read this book. I tend not to read this imprint as much as the other Harlequin lines. Still, the summary and the cover kept drawing me back. And I am glad that it did. This is a sweet, well-written romance – one that leaves you with a sigh of satisfaction that happily ever afters do occur.

As a San Diego hockey team's PR director, Elle Austin is used to getting early morning calls from team members in a jam. This time the call is from Max Beasley, her personal nemesis. It seems that one of the player’s birthday celebration got out of hand, and now everyone is sitting in jail. Oh, how she would love to leave him there but unfortunately she can’t even bluff him into thinking she might, since it part of her job to take care of issues like this. Finally at three-fifteen in the morning, after spending more than an hour working on their release, the subdued players are bailed out of jail. But Elle is not getting off that easy. Max requests a ride home.

Arriving at his house, she is surprised to find herself hemmed in as an irate young woman pulls up behind her. Politely asking his supposed girlfriend to move her car so she can leave, she is flummoxed when the woman refuses, and then pulls out a trench coat from her car and trusts it at Max, telling him she was about to drop Troy off at the police station. Suddenly the trench coat moves to reveal a small child.

Max had hoped that Amber, Troy’s mother would straighten herself out. She rarely has time for their child, letting her mother, Donna do most of the mothering and caregiving. But now that Donna is spending more time with her boyfriend in Las Vegas Amber has taken to dropping Troy off with anyone she can con. She has gone off before, but she has always left Troy with people whom Max knows. But this time Amber has gone too far. While Max has always had partial custody of his son, he realizes that it is now time to take full physical custody of him too. He has no doubt that Amber is going to pull out all stops, terrified of losing her meal ticket. Being known as the beast isn’t going to help his case either, and he has always been a loner. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this situation needs the magic touch of a public relations specialist, and who better than Elle Austin.

Elle has already been burnt by Max Beasley’s potent masculinity so she is looking to minimize the time spent in his company. But Max goes behind her back to her boss, and requests her help in dealing with the issue of Troy’s custody. With her hands more or less tied Elle agrees. She just needs to keep reminding herself that she looking for a man that has more interests than just sports. She wants someone more well-rounded, maybe even willing to go to the symphony too. Still, Max is so tempting, and Troy easily captures her heart.

Elle really made the book for me. She is a competent professional along with being feisty, feminine, assertive and caring. Being raised with brothers, she knows how to handle herself around men and even menacing women.

Max is appealing too. His whole beastly façade is just a smokescreen. He was born in prison to a drug addicted mother, and never knew his father. After spending most of his childhood in foster care, he doesn’t know how to love. Oh, his last foster parents gave him a perfect example of how it is done, but he is not sure he can ever learn. Amber trapped him into parenthood, when he wasn’t ready to become a father, but he going to make damn sure his son has a better life than he did.

While I often enjoy loosely written stories, where authors are able to explore different aspects, this well-written story delivers in 192 pages all the needed characterization and plotting for an extremely pleasing read.

If you like kisses stories, plan on picking this one up. Even if you don’t have time to read it before Christmas, it is a perfect story to pull out Christmas night after either the kids have gone to bed or gone home.

-- Leigh Davis

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