Shelly Ware has been good friends with Kurt Silverman almost as long as they've been working together. He's an orthopedic surgeon, and she's a physical therapist in his practice. As time has gone by, Shelly has slowly fallen in love with Kurt from afar, but fears that he sees her as nothing more than a friend. She has always wanted a husband and kids, but hasn't found anyone, other than Kurt, with whom she would be willing to spend the rest of her life. Then her sister's hysterectomy sends Shelly's biological clock into overdrive, making her want a baby right away. She approaches her pal, Kurt, asking him to be a sperm donor, but he declines, leaving her saddened on multiple levels.
Shelley's proposal blindsides Kurt. He cares about her and understands her feelings, but doesn't like the idea of leaving her with the full responsibility of raising his child on her own. He already has a twelve-year-old son with his ex-wife, who is giving him major grief about custody arrangements. With his busy career, Kurt often can't be there when his son comes to visit, so a judge has ruled that unless he can prove that Jason will be properly supervised, Kurt can no longer see him. To get the order changed, Kurt's attorney suggests he get married, so that his wife can handle things with Jason, when he needs to be in surgery. Almost immediately, Kurt sees the answer to both his and Shelly's problems: a mutually beneficial marriage of convenience.
It might not have been the romantic proposal a woman dreams of, but Shelly is still eager to accept. Once they're married, she loves being Kurt's wife almost as much as she loves the man himself, but Kurt remains distant. He is committed to providing for Shelly and any children they conceive, but after a horrible first marriage, he refuses to give her his heart. Luckily for him, fate intervenes to show him just how much his sweet, beautiful wife has come to mean to him and how much his son needs him too.
Ann Jacobs is well-known for her erotic romances, but A Mutual Favor is one of her sensual mainstream romance titles. It's the story of two best friends (one of my favorite romance tropes) entering into a marriage of convenience (another favorite theme) as a favor for each other. He needs a wife in order to convince a judge that he should have joint custody of his twelve-year-old son. She feels her biological clock ticking and wants to have a baby ASAP, but has no other relationship prospects in her life other than her best friend who she's loved from afar for a long time. By embarking on this journey together, they learn things about themselves and each other, including that best friends truly can make the best marriage partners.
Kurt is a top-notch, workaholic orthopedic surgeon whose patients are his top priority. His first marriage ended in divorce, because his ex-wife didn't understand this or his ambitions. Not to mention, she seemed like a pretty spoiled débutante who was used to getting her own way. After the divorce, Kurt moved from Atlanta to San Antonio for a change of pace and to pursue his career, which makes it very difficult for him to see his twelve-year-old son, Jason. He's been petitioning the courts for joint custody, but on the rare occasions that Jason has been able to visit, Kurt was often tied up in surgery and unable to spend much time with him. This has left Jason bitter toward his dad, which is only exacerbated by his mom's lies and manipulations. In order for the judge to see him as a fit parent who cares about his child, Kurt needs to prove that Jason will have full-time supervision on his visits, and his attorney believes the best way to do that is for him to get married so that his wife can look after Jason.
I had slightly mixed feelings about Kurt, at least at first. I fully understand that the life of a surgeon, especially one as talented and in-demand as he is, can be extremely hectic. No one could predict when an emergency case would be brought into the hospital, needing his immediate attention, but I couldn't help wondering if he might not have been able to find other ways to cut back on the amount of time spent at the hospital. However, oftentimes, control of his schedule seemed to be out of his hands with people who were above him insisting that he had to do certain things even if he didn't really want to. I did like that Kurt gradually comes to realize how much he's been neglecting his family and starts to make some changes to ensure that he's spending more time with them, and more importantly, placing them higher on his priority list. Even before this, I at least felt that during the time he spent with Shelly and Jason, he was in the moment with them and not distracted by his work. He just couldn't seem to get away from it long enough to be with them often. With regards to his relationship with Shelly, Kurt fights his burgeoning feelings for her. After having his heart trampled by his ex-wife, he has no desire to love someone again and thinks that marriage to his best friend is a pretty appealing option. Love has a way of sneaking into one's heart unexpectedly though, and Kurt was not immune. Even though he keeps trying to tell himself that they're just friends who happen to be married, it doesn't take long for him to start loving her in a more romantic way and gradually coming to accept those feelings.
Shelly has worked as a physical therapist in Kurt's practice for quite a while and developed a deep friendship with him. For her, those feelings have turned to love, so when she suddenly feels her biological clock ticking, it's Kurt she asks to father her baby. Although he initially isn't particularly open to her suggestion of being a sperm donor, he eventually returns with the proposition of a mutual favor, which she's pretty eager to accept. Shelly is a kind, caring, and compassionate person. I'm sure some readers will view her as a doormat, especially when she gives up her job to become a homemaker, but I saw her as simply being easy-going. Having worked with Kurt prior to marrying him, she understands his devotion to his patients and willingly accepts his crazy schedule without complaint, even though it sometimes means dealing with his surly son alone. She gradually wins Jason over with a combination of kindness, understanding, and her exceptional culinary skills. Having been a homemaker for many years, I could appreciate and admire Shelly for her ability to create an environment that was a pleasant place for Kurt to come home to, as well as for her unwavering support of her husband. I admittedly haven't always been particularly good at either one, but in some ways, I wish I could be more like Shelly. I think it was in large part her laid-back attitude and gentleness that eventually won Kurt's heart and made him realize that he needed to follow her example by being more devoted to her like she was to him.
Some reviewers didn't seem to like this story very much, but overall, it worked quite well for me. I have a feeling that some readers probably didn't relate to the characters, but I felt I understood them pretty well. I thought the love scenes could have used a little better emotional connection, but at the same time, I couldn't help wondering if it was a deliberate decision on the part of the author to write them that way. After all, immediately following their marriage, Kurt is turned on by Shelly but still viewing her as nothing more than a friend, so for him to keep a little emotional distance made sense. Not that he isn't a considerate lover no matter what, but I think he was even more so after his little epiphany. So in general, A Mutual Favor was an enjoyable read for me. With a number of romance themes that I enjoy and a hero and heroine that I found to be fairly likable, I couldn't help but give it keeper status.
Note: With regards to content, length, and frequency, the love scenes in this book are definitely on par with most mainstream romances, however, they do contain some explicit language that is typically reserved for erotic romances.
A Mutual Favor was recently updated and re-released by the author under the new title, A Very Special Favor.
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