REVIEW: “Her Surprise Engagement” by Ashlee Mallory

Ashlee Mallory produces another sweet and engaging Sorensen Family romance with a fiery Heroine and a dashing Hero.  Daisy’s a single mother of three children suffering from a deadbeat husband and dead-end job.  She’s independent and hates asking for help.  However she asks her sister-in-law, to loan her the use of her family’s vacation house.  Coincidentally, Jack asks Mrs. Vaughn permission to use her vacation house as well.  He’s assured it’s free for his and his daughter’s quiet vacation.  Jack’s about to leap-frog from lieutenant-governor to governor.  The current governor’s waiting for approval for the cabinet position the President has appointed for him.  Trouble begins the morning after the families arrive at the vacation house.  Reporters come looking for the young widowed lieutenant-governor and his daughter but find a woman in her robe.  This causes a potential scandal and there’s only one simple and mutually beneficial solution.  A surprise engagement.

Daisy’s holiday vacation’s starting off horribly.  Her deadbeat ex-husband promised their kids a Disneyland vacation and instead is taking his girlfriend to Europe.  Luckily her sister-in-law is loaning her the use of her family’s Lake Tahoe vacation house for free.  Unfortunately her minivan couldn’t survive the hours of drive time and died minutes from their destination, in the rain.  Luckily the tow truck driver’s able to them to the house in one piece.  The bad news is she can already hear her overburdened credit card screaming in anticipation of the repair costs.  But Daisy is going to channel Scarlett O’Hara and deal with that later.  She needs to try to get her two daughters and young son to sleep during the thunderstorm.  Luckily Daisy has her aunt with her to help out.

Jack Harrison’s bringing his thirteen year-old daughter Lily on one last vacation together before their lives undergo overwhelming change.  He’s the Lieutenant Governor of Utah and the current governor was asked to be a member of the President’s cabinet.  Once he gets approval by Congress Jack will become the Governor and his job requirements will be more demanding.  Then he’ll need to start campaigning to keep the office of Governor.  But everything changes when he arrives at the vacation house of his family’s friends.  When he and Lily get into the house it seems quiet but Jack notices a few things out of place.  Then the French doors open and a beautiful woman wearing a robe and fuzzy socks walks in.  Of course the minute the woman sees him she drops her wineglass causing it to shatter.  This brings children out from all over the house.

Daisy almost panics but quickly recognizes Jack Harrison as the lieutenant-governor.  She attended some small women owned business seminars he headed up in the past.  They figure out the confusion with their accommodations and vow to fix things  in the morning.  Unfortunately, there’s a news leak and Jack’s leap to “soon-to-be-governor” cause the reporters to show up at the door.  It’s Daisy’s luck that she’s in her ratty robe and unobservant due to making breakfast muffins.  Daisy makes the mistake of telling her kids that Jack was in the shower when they asked where he was.  It makes the scene with the press all the more memorable.  Daisy, in a robe, on the porch, being asked the whereabouts of the widowed and single lieutenant-governor.  And her youngest daughter announcing that her mommy told them Jack’s in the shower.  Needless to say Jack gets in touch with his political adviser immediately.

Jack’s been taken by Daisy the minute he saw her.  He noticed that she had small business loan application paperwork with her.  Something his adviser said gives him an idea to salvage the scandalous situation that has his political rivals already attacking.  Daisy’s concerned since the gossip’s making her and Jack’s presence at the vacation house appear tawdry.  She worries about what the rumors will do to her children’s reputations, as well as her own.  Jack sees an opportunity; he doesn’t want to lose Daisy now that he has her.  So he comes up with a idea but he makes it mutually beneficial so Daisy will willingly play along.  If Daisy pretends to be Jack’s fiancée, in order to avoid political scandal, he’ll co-sign her small business loan.  Of course Jack will get a percentage of the profits as an investor rather than it being a handout.

Daisy agrees to a pretend engagement for only as long as necessary.  In the meantime Jack and Lily and Daisy and Jenna, Natalie and Paul must enjoy a family vacation.  Along with Aunt Glenda and Ollie the dog.  Jack’s advisor wants to pack a lot of media friendly family outings into the schedule.  So they go fishing, to a zip-line park, and spend lots of time on the lakeshore swimming.  Jack and Daisy must attend a Black Tie affair as an officially engaged couple.  When the formal event arrives Jack and Daisy have spent a lot of time together.  More importantly they’ve spent time as a family together.  For Jack that’s enough for him to know that Daisy’s the one for him.  Daisy’s strong, independent, family-oriented, and she’s beautiful and sexy.  He’s dated since his wife’s death but he’s never felt like this about another woman.

Jack declares, to Daisy, that this engagement isn’t pretend for him, it’s the real thing.  For Daisy it’s difficult to trust because of her experience with her ex-husband.  Daisy wants to trust Jack.  Unfortunately Jack has some demons that he doesn’t realize he still battling from his late wife’s illness and death.  That and Daisy’s staunch independence and refusal to take help from anyone damages their relationship.  All Jack can see is that he wants to take care of Daisy and her family and he does so.  But Jack’s completely ignoring Daisy’s wishes in doing those things and buying the expensive gifts.  Daisy can’t take it because she knows Jack isn’t willing to respect her and her decisions.  She decides her self-reliance is much to valuable to her and she returns Jack’s ring to him and walks away.

Ashlee Mallory creates so many likable children characters; that’s pretty hard to do.  The family vacation fun scenes are amusing and heartwarming.  Romantic scenes between Daisy and Jack are almost platonic but there’s a heat and chemistry that’s palpable.  Jack’s enthusiasm for his attraction to Daisy’s endearing and the story of his late wife’s illness and death is heartbreaking.  Daisy’s ex-husband shows up briefly and allows Jack to show off an ability to be an inconspicuous Alpha.  Very classy.  Daisy’s self-reliance may have gotten more stringent due to her ex-husband’s unreliability but it may have existed all along.  In “Her Surprise Engagement” Jack’s a wonderful hero who’s loyal, giving (to a fault), and passionate.  I love how he’s almost as dedicated to Daisy’s kids as he is to her.  All of the Sorenson Family and their love interests are in attendance.  Unfortunately there’s no brother-suitor bloodshed this time.

I’m giving “Her Surprise Engagement” 4 Lightning Bolts and Sunny Skies.

 

This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed

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