Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in ParadiseBy Jennifer Greene

Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: December 13, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Netgalley
This was previously published in 1984 under the name Jeanne Grant

From blind date…

He’s divorced, eleven years older and the father of three. Not exactly every girl’s Ideal Man. But as soon as reserved bookstore owner Susan meets charismatic Griff Anderson, she’s smitten—and just three passion-filled months later, she’s his wife.

To instant family…

Their idyllic honeymoon spent restoring a majestic Victorian is cut short when the newlyweds happily—but unexpectedly—find themselves with full custody of his children. Now, instead of enjoying passionate nights and lazy mornings-after with Griff, Susan finds herself thrust into the role of Mom to Tom, Barbara and Tiger. And quarrelling with her husband over how to handle the drama that comes with a house full of tweens and teens.

When pet problems, party crashers and pregnancy scares threaten their happiness, Susan can’t help but wonder what Griff really wanted: a wife, or a mother for his children?

Goodreads Summary

When Susan and Griff Anderson got married after a whirlwind courtship, she knew she’d be taking on the extra role as step-mom to his three kids with his former wife.  As much as the two of them had been bowled over by their immediate connection and now deep love for each other, they also know the kids are having some serious adjustment issues and will likely need more of their time at least in the near future, so the two put off a honeymoon in favor of preparing.  The couple purchased a huge Victorian that they’re trying to renovate in time for the kids’ visits, and Susan obsesses over every detail, especially the kids’ rooms, mostly to Griff’s amusement.  They’re expecting visits from each of the three kids, one at a time, except unexpectedly, predictably, all hell breaks loose and they end up with a houseful of kids in all stages of obnoxiousness; Susan is a neurotic mess, Griff can see the train wreck coming but is having a hard time getting everyone off the tracks and there is An Event.

From the opening paragraph, it’s obvious that Griff is madly in love with Susan and in a refreshingly grown up way.  He’s only 39, hardly graying and feeble by Romancelandia standards, but on the page he’s written much older.  Between Susan’s observations of him and passages from his point of view, he seems like a guy who’s already lived a pretty significant life and is on his second chance; it’s a little disconcerting to be reminded he’s got a son that’s still in elementary school.  He has an annoying tendency to be blind to any faults Susan has, but balances it with an absurdly romantic heart and his refusal to give up on his entire family.  He’s pretty sexy too, so extra points there.  I alwaysgive extra points for sexy.  Now’s a good time to add that there’s some mild sexual content; nothing racy, but enough that you get the gist of what’s happening.

Most of the story is told from Susan’s view, and maybe it’s because I’ve been through a kid of my own in all of the horrific age stages here, so not much of what she went through was surprising to me even if it was through her lens as a step-parent.  Although she was more than a decade younger than Griff, she never really came across as less mature, just less sure of herself where the kids were concerned and eventually, less sure of why Griff loved her because of it.  A great deal of the story was simply Susan reacting to what was thrown at her, but very simply said, it nearly all rang true, although I’m still having trouble with the ages of Griff and Susan here.

The kids and the ex were a big issue for me.  Sadly, they hit every cliché there is.  The oldest boy, 17-yr. old Tom, ran away from home because he thought he got a girl pregnant and thought he had to marry her.  Oh, and he doesn’t want to go to college, go to work at his dad’s business, disagrees with Griff constantly because they’re too much alike and plays his music too loud.  Daughter Barbara is 14, wears too much makeup, her pants are too tight; she’s sullen, hates Susan and hangs around with a bad crowd.  Youngest son Tiger is a crazy bundle of energy who loves being hugged, plays baseball, has school projects involving bugs that Susan has to kill, wants a hamster that Griff won’t get him (predictably, Susan does) and is mostly blissfully unaware that he shouldn’t like his step-mom.  The ex-wife is a hideous shrew who never wanted kids, only Griff’s money and leaves the kids home alone every chance she gets.  She uses them like weapons in court to hurt him, forces him to pay exorbitant support, makes him spend more money buying them things they already have, then ends up actually losing one of them, literally.  Did I miss anything?

So why did this work so well for me?  Because it did work, completely.  I think it came down to the realistic way Greene portrayed the difficulty in blending a household like this and the toll it can take on a new relationship.  There weren’t any easy fixes, and while a couple of issues may have been resolved a little too simply, this still was a wonderful romantic (and nostalgic!) story.  I picked up the three remaining Jennifer Greene re-issues based on the strength of this story, if that tells you anything about how much I loved this.

My Rating: A



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