The Best Laid Plans - Sarah Mayberry Harlequin winner, part deux!

A winner, and I really enjoyed it. This one went by very quickly, but it was also a satisfying and emotional read. I found myself choked up towards the end, and I'm usually a tough nut to crack.

The story, briefly.

The plot isn't too complex, but the dynamics and characters are what make it special. Basically, career woman Alex decides she wants to have a baby, and office ladykiller Ethan steps up to the plate and offers to be her sperm donor. They have to navigate their mutual desires for how the arrangement would fall into place, and they also are in heavy denial of the mutual attraction for each other that has developed over time between them. They each want different things - she's looking for the white picket fence, and he's been burned so bad that he doesn't even want to try for the picket fence ever again - or so they think.

The characters.

The ticking biological clock theme is one that I usually avoid, but the characters handled the vicissitudes of the theme very well and realistically. Alex and Ethan felt real to me - not just stereotypes of the Harlequin variety.

They're an older couple (she's 38; he's 42), and there's a maturity to their thinking and interactions that is lacking in some of the other category romances that I've read. I found these characters to be very well-developed and fleshed out, with both good and bad qualities coming into the mix based on their own life experiences.

I thought this story also addressed the biological clock trope very well and unflinchingly. It wasn't maudlin; it felt like how two very real people would react to such a situation.

The romance/sexytimes.

The romance was nicely developed, and it definitely helped that they had a previously established professional rapport. The biological clock situation was the catalyst they each needed to spend more time together and get to know each other outside of the office/professional setting. There aren't many sexytimes scenes, but there's pretty good romantic tension throughout the book as Ethan wrestles with himself and his need to be with a woman to whom he knows he cannot give what she wants.

Overall.

Basically, I really enjoyed this book, and it was a great introduction to this much-lauded Harlequin author. Beyond the fact that she made a theme work for me that I don't typically read, she also made a lawyer romance work, too, when I usually avoid those like the plague. The story was emotionally realistic and actually had me choked up with tears at one point. I didn't particularly like the ultimate catalyst at the climax that brought Ethan to his "realization," but I tolerated it in the end because it was clear to me that he was well on his way to that realization already.

A quick funnie, to lighten the mood: