Well, crap. This was supposed to be some nice, fluffy fun. Instead, I now want to cry, and not in a good way.
Cassidy Rae is a Scottish nurse. She was badly hurt a few years ago when her Spanish fiance went back to Spain and cut things off with her when she refused to go with him. All she wants to do is take care of her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's, and find herself a nice Scottish guy. She's not happy when a fortuneteller tells her that she's going to be a Christmas bride, and that her groom won't be from Scotland.
Soon after getting back to work, Cassidy meets Brad, a new doctor at her hospital. He's from Australia and probably won't stick around any longer than her fiance did, but she can't help but be charmed by him. The attraction is mutual, but Brad has something he hasn't told Cassidy: he has a young daughter named Melody. Melody's mother, Alison, took off with her in the middle of the night two years ago, and he's been looking for her ever since. Odds are good that Alison fell in love with an American doctor and moved to the United States with him – Brad just doesn't know exactly where. When he finds out, will that be the end of his and Cassidy's romance, or will she unbend enough to reconsider her decision never to leave Scotland?
Typing that last sentence was painful. Cassidy and Brad were both POV characters, but it felt like the entire book was focused on what Brad needed and wanted. Cassidy was always the “closed-minded” one. Everyone, from the fortuneteller to Brad to Cassidy herself kept saying so, and it made me angry. Was not wanting to leave Scotland really such a bad thing?
Cassidy was way more open with Brad than he was with her. No, she didn't tell him exactly how badly her fiance leaving her had wrecked her, but she'd at least told him the basics of what happened. Later, she told him about her grandmother and what Alzheimer's was doing to her. Brad, meanwhile, kept finding reasons not to mention Alison and his now 4-year-old daughter.
Cassidy was understandably upset when she finally did learn the truth, but softened when she learned that Brad had been afraid she'd judge him. When Alison first disappeared, people assumed he'd done something to her until the police figured out that she'd boarded an international flight. Then people assumed that Alison had left so quickly and quietly because he'd been abusive towards either her or Melody. Cassidy immediately believed his version of the events. “She was angry. She was hurt. And she had no idea what this could mean for them. But right now, she had to show compassion.” (154)
Sorry, I disagree. Had it not been very clear that this was supposed to be a romance novel, I'd have spent the entire book wondering if Brad was actually an unreliable narrator who had convinced himself he was in the right. As it was, I knew that, at some point, Wilson would probably reveal Alison to be horrible.
I barely know anything about custody laws in the U.S., much less in Australia, so I have no idea if the book handled any of that correctly. As far as I know, Brad and Alison were never married. Brad told Cassidy that they'd had an informal custody agreement. Yes, it had hurt him when Alison left and took Melody with her, but had he really had any kind of legal leg to stand on? This book seemed to think so. At the end,
a big deal was made about Alison removing Melody from Australia without parental consent. Alison was “shamed” (240) into meeting with Brad's lawyer. Readers never did learn why she left Australia so suddenly, without telling anyone, unless “she met an American doctor and wanted to start a new life without an ugly custody battle” was really supposed to be the sole reason. She didn't have a speaking role and was less a character and more an obstacle between Brad and the daughter he “deserved” to be with.
The one thing I liked about this book was the hospital stuff. It was nice to see Cassidy and Brad actually doing their jobs, and it all felt real. It's just too bad the romance was so disappointing.
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)