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by Jane Green

Pub Date: March 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-59182-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

Married Bay Area woman tries to overcome a fraught relationship with her troubled teenage stepdaughter.

Mr. Right can come with big-time baggage, and that is certainly the case for interior designer Andi. Already in her late 30s when she meets and falls for divorced dad Ethan, Andi wants nothing more than to start a family of her own with him. A doting father to his two young daughters, Sophia and Emily, Ethan shares custody of them with his ex-wife Janice, a bitter, unreliable alcoholic. Sophia, ten year’s old when the story begins, adores her cool new stepmom, but 17-year-old goth princess Emily is a different story. A master of manipulation and histrionics, Emily sees Andi as a major threat in a battle for Ethan’s love. She manages to twist her overly permissive dad around her little finger—to Andi’s dismay—and acts out by experimenting with drugs and sex. Struggling with fertility issues, Andi is secretly thrilled, though, when Emily is revealed to be 7 months pregnant from one of her random hookups. Hoping that Emily will give the child to her and Ethan, she is then crushed when Ethan insists Emily give it up for adoption. Emily has other plans, of course, and gives birth to a healthy boy, Callum. But motherhood turns out to be more than she can handle, and she runs off to Portland. Andi is left to raise Cal as her own for three happy years, knowing in the back of her mind that Emily might someday return. Away from home, Emily gets a job on an organic farm and manages to clean up her act. She also repairs her relationship with Janice, who has stopped drinking, and reconnects with her childhood pal Michael, who has grown into quite a hunk. The two of them decide to move back to Mill Valley, with Emily insisting to an ecstatic Ethan and a skeptical Andi that she only wants to be a part of Cal’s life. But does she mean it, and has she really changed? Green (Promises to Keep, 2010, etc.) ramps up the emotional stakes by presenting both Andi and Emily’s points of view, even as her prose is a bit on the dull and repetitive side.

Topical family melodrama.