When Jeff Roberts became a sperm donor for his best friend, Beth, it was with the expectation that she would be raising the kids and he would have a minimal role in their lives. But all that changed when Beth was tragically killed in a house fire. Having promised Beth that he would look after the children, he suddenly finds himself an insta-dad to a toddler and a newborn infant. His long-time partner, unwilling to have anything to do with the kids, then left him three days later. Jeff is out of vacation time at work and at loose ends when a cute guy responds to his ad for a live-in nanny.
Donny Gleason has always wanted to work with kids. He got his degree in early childhood education with the intention of becoming a preschool teacher or nanny, but several failed job interviews later, he's come to the conclusion that most people don't want to hire a man for those positions, much less one who's gay. When Donny arrives at Jeff's house to the sound of screaming children and things breaking, he's hopeful that he can prove his worth. His interview is something of a trial by fire, but when he manages to put things aright in Jeff's household within a couple of hours, Jeff is eager to hire him. Where Jeff lacks the patience and know-how to fully care for the kids, Donny is a male Mary Poppins. After spending several late nights together after the children are asleep and many weekends as a cobbled together family, Donny soon finds himself falling for his employer. When they become lovers, he's a little afraid that things might get awkward between them, but nothing could feel more right, until Jeff's ex comes around, stirring up trouble and interfering in their lives in ways that could become criminal.
I haven't read any male/male romances in quite some time, but Daddy, Daddy & Me proved to be a perfect reintroduction to the genre. I love hearth and home type romances, and this one definitely fits that bill. It's the story of two men who are brought together by tragedy and circumstance, but use the opportunity to forge a loving, patchwork family. When I first started this book I thought it might end up being a four-star read. I was enjoying it, but the writing was a little rough around the edges, which I'll address later in my review. But in the end, it was so sweet and heartwarming, I couldn't help giving it keeper status. Some readers may find it too sappy, but I love stories like this, so it was a great read for me.
Jeff is a man at loose ends. He volunteered to be a sperm donor for his best friend, Beth, who died from injuries sustained in a tragic house fire, leaving her two children behind. Before she passed, she asked Jeff to take the children so they could grow up with their father. I love how Jeff didn't hesitate to step up to the plate even though his involvement with the kids - an infant girl and a toddler boy - had been minimal up to that point. He has no idea how to be a father or how to take care of kids, but he's trying his hardest to make it work. Then his long-time partner up and walked out on him three days after Beth died, leaving Jeff to deal with everything on his own. His sister helped out for a while, but she's not really a kid person and she has a life of her own. Now Jeff must get back to work or lose his job as a chef, so he decides to hire a nanny. Jeff is a really great guy, who's had way too much dumped on him in a very short amount of time, but I think, under the circumstances, he was handling it admirably. I love a man who can cook, and Jeff definitely has a talent in the kitchen. What I love most about him, though, is his love for his kids. Even though he didn't plan on being a hands-on daddy, he wouldn't trade his little ones for anything and does everything he can to keep them safe, loved, and cared for. I enjoyed watching Jeff go through a growth process throughout the story, where he must not only rearrange his priorities in life, but also, he must figure out what he wants out of life long-term. When he was with his ex, things were much different. He thought he knew what his dreams were, but now he's faced with deciding whether those things are really what he wants now that he has a family and a new love in his life.
I absolutely adored Donny. He's an angel among men, who comes to Jeff's rescue at exactly the moment when he's most needed and sets things to rights not only in Jeff's household but also by helping him make those life decisions I mentioned. Donny always knew he wanted to work with kids and he studied hard to get his degree in early childhood education. But once he started actually looking for a job, a lot of doors closed in his face, because he's a man and also because he's gay. When he goes for the job interview, Donny instantly falls in love with Jeff's kids and knows it's his dream job. I so admire people who are patient, gentle, and creative with kids like Donny is. I can only wish I were that sort of person, but I'm not. He's also very organized, getting the kids into a routine right away. He has all the perfect qualities to make him an amazing nanny (and daddy), a regular male version of Mary Poppins. I would have felt extremely blessed to have a child-care giver like him for my kids when they were little. Even more so than his talent with the kids, I loved Donny for the way he's always so positive, looking for the silver lining in every situation. I also loved how supportive he was of Jeff in every way. Donny is a very easy-going guy, but he's also an emotional rock for Jeff when he faces yet another crisis.
The only thing that kept this book from being a five-star read for me is certain aspects of the writing itself. There are a number of typos and awkwardly worded passages that should have been smoothed out by a good editor. The author also has a habit of making lists of three things or actions in which he places the 'and' between the first two and a comma between the last two, which isn't really proper grammatical formatting. It should be the other way around. This drove me a little batty at first, but most of these seemed to occur during the first half of the book and smoothed out a bit more during the second half. There were a few things that could have been explained a little better, such as Beth's death, and a few places where a little more detail would have made it easier to envision what was happening. An actual comeuppance for Jeff's ex, especially since it was implied that he committed a crime, definitely wouldn't have gone amiss either. In general, though, these things didn't detract much from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, Daddy, Daddy & Me was a sweet, endearing tale that really tugged at my heartstrings. Jeff's kiddos are absolutely adorable. Robin is a bubbly ball of energy who acted entirely age-appropriately. Kimmie is just a baby, so she doesn't really talk, but she expresses herself in her actions like any infant would. Jeff and Donny's relationship happens pretty quickly, kind of an insta-love. It was totally believable to me, though, because I could feel the emotional connection not only between the two men but also between them and the kids, making them the perfect family. This was my first read by Sean Michael, but I enjoyed it so much, I'm really looking forward to trying more of his work.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook