Nineteen-year-old Noelle Stevenson was in shock when the home pregnancy test registered positive. She had only been with her baby's father once while he was on leave from Iraq, and soon after his return to the front, he had been killed in action. Her father is a pastor, her mother the church secretary, and with four girls still living at home, their finances have been strained. Noelle doesn't want to add a baby to their already overburdened plate, but she doesn't know what she's going to do until she quite literally bumps into her boss as she's hurriedly leaving the bathroom of the office where she works.
It was just another morning at the office for Devlin Hunter until he saw the positive pregnancy test drop to the floor. He didn't know Noelle very well, but he did know that his little brother had been dating her before he was killed. Dev practically raised his brother and had always been the responsible one. He may not be the father of Noelle's baby, but he can't help feeling an obligation to make things right like he would have expected his brother to do if he were still alive. Without hesitation, Dev offers Noelle a temporary marriage of convenience, during which he will support her and the baby in every way in exchange for the baby having the Hunter name and him being a part of his or her life. He just didn't expect to actually fall for his pretty new wife and she for him. But, Dev harbors guilt over his brother's death and after loosing everyone he ever cared about, thinks that love makes a man weak. Will he ever be able set aside his baggage to return Noelle's love?
For quite a while now, I've been hearing good things about Susan Mallery's work, but until I finally picked up Having Her Boss's Baby, a book that has been on my TBR pile for a long time, I didn't know what I was missing. If this story is any indication of what Ms. Mallery is capable of as a writer, I would say I have a lot to look forward to as I explore her backlist. She definitely seems to have a talent for creating characters who are relatable, the types of people I'd like to have as friends. In this novel, she has also written a story that is tender, romantic, emotional and a little angsty, just the way I like it. Having Her Boss's Baby definitely kept me turning the pages to see how things would work out for Dev and Noelle, and in the end left me feeling very satisfied.
Dev impressed me as a man who is successful in business and very responsible, so much so that he was completely willing to enter into a marriage of convenience in order to take care of his dead brother's girlfriend and her unborn baby. From the moment Dev finds out that Noelle is pregnant, he is there for her, offering everything she would need financially to have a comfortable life. He even willingly went with her to her doctor appointments and wanted to take parenting classes with her. Even though he practically raised his little brother, Jimmy, Dev feels completely inept as parent, but as he slowly learns throughout the story, he has a lot more to offer a child than he thinks. I thought it was great of him to pledge his fidelity to Noelle, even though he was under the assumption that he would have to remain celibate for the agreed upon two year marriage. He was also pretty good at reading Noelle's cues and recognizing when something was wrong. Now, it may sound like he was the perfect guy, but in reality he had one very big fault that almost ended their budding relationship. Having lost everyone he ever cared about, he's afraid to love anyone else, and because he blames himself for Jimmy's death, he feels unworthy of being loved too. With Dev being such a nice guy during the first half of the book, I never would have guessed he had it in him to be so cold, but when Noelle declares her love, it has him running scared. However, all the baggage gave him a pretty decent reason for his actions and behavior, and of course, love eventually wins out to save the day.
Noelle is a very kind, caring and responsible young woman too. She doesn't want to have to rely on Dev for support, but when she realizes how difficult things are for her family financially, she knows she can't burden her parents further with a baby. Even though she feels rather mercenary for doing it, she willingly marries Dev to make sure her baby is taken care of. Right from the start, she was quite thoughtful, trying to make things as easy on Dev as possible. I thought it was really sweet how she was so curious about sex and concerned about his "needs," and even sweeter that she offered herself to Dev so that he wouldn't have to go without for two years. Being the stubborn man that he was, he thought that would be a mistake, so Noelle had to seduce him. Even though she lacked finesse, her innocent seduction just about drove him wild, and yet he was a very tender lover. Noelle is also a bit of an enigma, always surprising Dev at every turn. I think Susan Mallery did a very good job of finding a balance in Noelle's character between the moments when she seemed very young and her being emotionally mature enough to handle almost anything to the point that she seemed wise beyond her years. When Dev practically threw her declarations of love back in her face, Noelle could have easily gotten angry or upset with him, but instead she kept a clear head, was completely honest with him, and tried not to give up hope that he would eventually change his mind. She was just always loving and patient, giving him the space and time he needed even though it hurt to think he didn't and might not ever love her.
Having Her Boss's Baby may be a short novel, but it surprised me with it's depth. It was a nice, easy read, but at the same time packed a pretty good emotional punch. I really enjoyed the slow building attraction and feelings between Dev and Noelle as they bond over the pregnancy and simply living in close quarters as a married couple. Even though the marriage of convenience seems less likely in the contemporary setting, the story was completely believable for me, as were the characters fears and foibles. I loved Noelle's family. They were loving, supportive and pretty normal, just the type of family I would choose for myself if I could. Noelle also has a couple of good friends, Rachel and Crissy, with whom she can share confidences and who also become the heroines of the next two books in the Positively Pregnant trilogy, The Ladies' Man and Her Last First Date respectively. Having Her Boss's Baby is the first in the series and my first read by Susan Mallery, but it really has me looking forward to reading the other books in the series and trying some of her other works too.
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