Hannah Pace needs a pretend husband, just for the weekend! She’s told her long-lost mother that she’s married–well, she was, then, see, but isn’t now, you understand? So in desperation, she hits up the local bad boy Nick Archer. He’s a local wheeler and dealer who stays just on the good side of the law, but boy is he handsome…
Nick’s not telling the truth, either, you see. Things get complicated in a great big hurry, as they pretend to be something they aren’t, a married couple. Hannah meets her mom for the first time (she was adopted as a baby, and is trying to reconnect), and finds out that she’s got half-brothers from her father’s prior marriage, the one that ended when dear old dad wanted to marry Louise, who is Hannah’s mom.
Confused yet? Yeah, me too.
Turns out, three of the four half-brothers are all cops, one the local sheriff, but this being the halcyon days before 9/11, they’re not immediately suspicious, until quite by accident one of them overhears our fake couple arguing…The stories start to unravel, but turns out Nick’s got his own law-enforcement connection, too, and turns out to be one of the good guys.
I liked this story; from the get-go, when I saw our proposition, I knew we were in for a sort of modern comedy of errors, and Mallery did not disappoint me. Hannah’s family, big, boisterous, and loving, fits together like a tidy puzzle, and it’s clear from the outset that they are thrilled to have baby sister in the fold. Hannah’s mother Louise is a sweetheart, though I was a little disconcerted at her young age. You may think of 47 as a ripe old age, but being 47 myself, this was a tough pill to swallow. But the story explains how she could have a nearly-thirty year old daughter, with no bobbles.
The steam level in this story was pretty good–not as hot, say, as a Blaze novel, but then, that’s not what this line is about. There’s a tension between our leads from the early going, and Nick plays it like a harp, until Hannah finally figures out what it is about Nick that’s attracted her for so long. Their eventual union is pleasantly steamy without being too smutty. There is only one full-on sex scene in this novel, but it’s a high-quality one, and moves the story forward just the right amount, since the very next scene is when the brothers start to figure out that Something Is Up. They’re outraged at this criminal (they think) who’s taking advantage of their baby sister, and it’s amusing to watch her trying to calm them down.
Formulaic? Sure. Predictable? Of course, aren’t they always? But Husband by the Hour was a solid, enjoyable read. I’m going to be hunting actively for the rest of this author series; my suspicion is that we’ll learn more about this fun-loving, tight-knit family.