I am almost always sucked in by a cute cover and a moderately interesting blurb. This book has both. At least to me. Y’all know by now that I am almost always going to click on a book that mentions online dating. And this blurb mentions single parenting. I felt like I had to read it.
Then I noticed it was published by Harlequin’s Christian Printing imprint. I debated not reading it, but I decided to give it a go. I watch plenty of Hallmark movies that kind of dance around faith/religion. I figured this couldn’t be much different. And it wasn’t. Cutesy story of a woman in her early 30’s trying to find love. She is giving online dating a try. But then she decides it is trash and opts to just live her life. (I feel like there is a lesson in there for me.) Naturally before she completely deletes her profile she connects with a handsome man who just happens to be someone she went to high school and wouldn’t you know it he works across the street.
Back to the book. The love match was cutesy and had moments of sweetness but that was only about half the focus of the book. There is some mention of faith- Jett takes his family to church. There were a few mentions of prayer. It didn’t feel too heavy handed but also I had bigger issues to work through.
Cassie works at an all girls organization that read to me like Boys & Girls Club, except all girls. Star is one of the girls that attends the after school program. Star and her sisters are removed from the home due to child neglect and abandonment. Cassie decides to take Star and her sisters home with her and provide care for them. She truly cares for them and wants to see them stay together as a unit and doesn’t want them to go to foster care. There was one early mention of Star’s hair that felt like code for Star being black. Once Cassie takes in the girls, the author states the girls are black. Cassie is white. The whole situation made me uncomfortable. So much so that I researched the number of children in foster care. Per Statista, in 2018 there were over 190,000 white kids in foster care and 99,000 black or African American kids in foster care. Childwelfare.gov shows similar stats with 44% White, 25% Black or African American children in foster care.
Weirdly enough, the hero, Jett also ends up parenting children that are not his. His sister, who is battling some sort of addiction, show up on his doorstep with her three children. She is there for a day and then leaves the kids in his care. There were a few times that Jett described his sisters addiction battle that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. He was pretty judgey.
Once Cassie and Jett are caregivers to their respective charges, they don’t tell each other about their situations and hilarity does not ensue. They don’t talk about it until close to the end and then there is a big misunderstanding that was ridiculous but also I was not invested in the story and just wanted to know how it ended.
Star’s long lost uncle agrees to take Star, Diedre and Kennedy. This is after Cassie finds out that their mother has surrendered her parental rights. Cassie is devastated. The girls leave her care. But in the epilogue they are back together. We don’t know why.
Jett’s sister takes her kids from Jett’s house without telling him and is driving impaired and causes a major accident that kills someone and causes injury to the children and because Jett is a fire fighter/EMT he is there to save them. They all end up together with a happily ever after.
I am not here to say that the author didn’t research this (foster care and/or transracial adoption) and attempt and want to handle the situation with care. I am here to say that there were no other characters of color that I could easily identify. To have the only characters of color be a neglectful mother whose children end up in foster care seems to be a potentially very hurtful narrative. I know that children of all races end up in foster care for a variety of reasons. But it had me feeling uneasy that the only time I was easily able to identify people of color was because they committed a crime or they were children in foster care. Jett’s niece and nephews are white and perhaps that is a balance and I am overthinking it. However, I felt how I felt and that is okay.
Long story short I didn’t love this book. I felt the romance was completely overshadowed by each of the main characters journey with becoming a caretaker. It felt like they didn’t really get to know enough about each other in order to sustain a long term relationship. When I factor in how I felt about the children, I didn’t enjoy this book.