Title: Suddenly Engaged
Author: Julia London
Series: Lake Haven #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Available: 25th July
Single mother Kyra Kokinos spends her days waiting tables, her nights working on her real estate license, and every spare moment with her precocious six-year-old daughter, Ruby—especially when Ruby won’t stop pestering their grumpy next-door neighbor. At first glance, Dax Bishop seems like the kind of gruff, solitary guy who’d be unlikely to offer a cup of sugar, let alone a marriage proposal. But that’s exactly what happens when Ruby needs life-saving surgery.
Dax showed up in East Beach a year ago, fresh from a painful divorce and looking for a place where he could make furniture and avoid people. Suddenly his life is invaded by an inquisitive munchkin in sparkly cowboy boots—and her frazzled, too-tempting mother. So he presents a practical plan: his insurance will help Ruby, and then they can divorce—zero strings attached.
But soon Kyra and Dax find their engagement of convenience is simple in name only. As their attraction deepens, a figure from the past reappears, offering a way out. Can Kyra and Dax let go so easily—or has love become a preexisting condition?
Source: ARC from Montlake Romance via NetGalley
This contemporary romance between a rushed-off-her-feet single mother and the grumpy man next door is much deeper and more involved than the carefree title and slightly misleading blurb suggest. Oh, there is an engagement of convenience, but not until well into the second half and so much else happens both before and after that the engagement itself is a minor part at best.
It’s a bit of a slow build, taking its time to establish Kyra and Ruby in Dax’s world before things progress between any of them. Neither Kyra nor Dax are instantly likeable, but I did come to like them. Despite being a mother to a six year old, Kyra isn’t always as mature as she could be, while Dax really is grumpy, but learning more about their struggles did make me sympathise with both.
It was quite refreshing to have a single mother in a romance not be portrayed as superwoman, capable of doing every possible thing with her child and still survive. Kyra is essentially alone with Ruby. Her mother died when she was twelve, her father isn’t interested, Ruby’s father isn’t interested, and she doesn’t have any other family or close friends to help. So she works really hard for minimal pay and studies when she can, desperate to keep a roof over her and Ruby’s heads. Her babysitting situation is frustrating and there were times when I wished she could swallow her pride a bit and accept more help for Ruby’s sake, but I did feel for her.
I felt for Dax too, even if aspects of his life were a bit too reminiscent of a certain plot from Friends. He is a grouch, but he mostly wants to be left alone, so I didn’t hold that against him. I wasn’t sure about his attitude towards Ruby at first, but that swiftly changed when the little coconut weaseled her way into his heart. The two of them together are just adorable. When you throw in Otto the dog as well, I couldn’t resist.
The romance is slow to build, given all the various job and babysitter troubles, followed by emotional issues, but I didn’t mind that. Both Kyra and Dax need to take things slow, so it worked for me. I also understood why Kyra struggled about how much she was getting out of the relationship and whether Dax genuinely cared about her or was just being a really good guy.
Towards the end, when emotions are running extremely high, I thought both characters could have handled things a little differently. They are both dealing with their own issues, but Kyra asks too much and Dax likewise puts a bit too much pressure on considering everything Kyra’s dealing with. And then the silence. I wasn’t happy about the silence. I know it made for a cute ending, but still, it was a little unfair considering everything.
On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this. Mostly because Ruby Coconuts is ridiculously adorable and I loved how she wound everyone – especially Dax – around her little finger. So if you’re looking for a slow-burn romance that takes a slightly more realistic look at single parent life and also packs a few emotional punches, with a bit of cuteness and a touch of heat, then give this a go. You definitely don’t need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this, since the important characters all change and it’s only the location that remains the same. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we’ll get to visit, because I’m looking forward to seeing who’ll turn up on the lake’s shore next.
Suddenly Engaged is out July 25th.
Visit Julia London for more details.