Title: The Best Man’s Baby
Author: Victoria James
May Contain Spoilers
The second book in Victoria James’ Red River series is a knock out. Both Claire and Jake are believably broken, suffering from dysfunctional childhoods. Claire’s mother is a perfectionist, and she pressured a shy, uncertain Claire to be the best she could be. Relentlessly. Any imperfection was picked apart, leaving Claire feeling worthless. Add in bullying at school, and before long, she had tried to drown her sorrow by overeating. As the pounds began to pile on, both her mother and her classmates hounded her, mocking her figure and adding yet another blow to her self-esteem.
Jake, too, suffered emotional trauma during his childhood. He never understood why his parents treated him differently from his two brothers, and when he discovered the awful truth, he felt nothing but revulsion for himself. With nobody to confide in, he acted out, causing suffering for himself and earning himself a bad boy reputation. Only Claire’s father, a minister, saved him, and now he’s grateful to him and forever in his debt.
After hooking up at his brother’s wedding, Jake abruptly abandons Claire. He leaves town, returning to an unpleasant surprise. Claire, pregnant with his child and with a mounting fury that would cause a Navy SEAL to run for cover, makes her condition – and his betrayal – publically known. How? By stabbing the positive pregnancy test stick in his burger at a barbeque. This moment in Romancelandia will go down in history as the most creative, and socially awkward, way to make a pregnancy announcement.
I loved this story because I could relate so well to both characters. My own internment in high school was soul draining and challenging, and I have fought to put every insult, nickname, and prank behind me. It hasn’t been easy to find a sense of worth after suffering through years of bullying, and I could easily sympathize with Claire. Struggling to live up to the high expectations of her mother, she had nowhere to turn, and only found refuge when she became friends with Holly (the heroine of A Risk Worth Taking). Claire is used to taking care of herself, and she’s made a successful business of her florist shop. Now that she is pregnant by the guy she’s been crushing on since she was a teen, she realizes that he’s just a jerk. He couldn’t run away from her fast enough after their night of unbridled passion, and now she is determined to raise her child by herself. What she doesn’t expect is that Jake wants to be part of his child’s life, too. She resists Jake’s attempts to apologize, and digs her heels in when he insists she let him accompany her to doctor appointments. And when he suggests that they get married? Oh, hell, no, Mr Love ‘em and Leave ‘em!
There’s a lot of humor in this book, as well as heartache, and ultimately, redemption, for Jake and a new understanding between Claire and her mother. When Jake refused to share himself with Claire, I wanted to scream with frustration. He is finally given the chance to be himself and share his most terrible secret, and he almost blows it, and his relationship with Claire, to Kingdom Come. He lacks the ability to trust anybody, even his brothers, and it almost costs him his happiness with Claire.
The Best Man’s Baby is a moving read, with highs, lows, and every emotion in between. As with A Risk Worth Taking, I was caught up in the characters and their emotional turmoil, and found myself cheering for their HEA. I usually dislike baby books, but this romance is now one of my favorites.
Review copy provided by publisher