Always in My Heart
Harlequin / May 2012 / $6.25 print, $5.09 digital
The oldest of three adopted daughters, Callie Hart has always loved being the protector of the family. But now she is all grown up—with a young son of her own to protect. Callie can’t wait to show him off when she reunites with her two sisters in Ohio. But that also means coming face-to-face with the lover she left behind. Nigel Williams is even more irresistibly attractive than ever. But what will he do when he learns about the secret she kept hidden from him for ten years?
Nigel has never forgiven Callie for fleeing Ohio—and the passion they shared. And when she shows up on his doorstep asking for forgiveness, the Cleveland cop is furious at her deception. But how can he deny the feelings Callie reawakens in him? Blindsided once again by the heat of desire, Nigel vows to fight for his future with the woman he has always loved.
Always in My Heart by Kayla Perrin begins a new trilogy focusing on three sisters, whose adoptive parent, their aunt, has recently and unexpectedly died. Though the sisters were estranged, the funeral brings them back together, issues and all. Both family dynamics and current social issues play a part in the story. Perrin takes a realistic look at both, and though the romance is central to the plot, it’s clear that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Funny how it sometimes took death to bring people together. Because while Callie hadn’t had a particular beef with either of her sisters, being forced into the middle of an ugly conflict between Deanna and Natalie had led to her being estranged from both of them.
The heroine of Always in My Heart, Callie, takes the opportunity to reveal a secret she’s been keeping for nine years. I am not giving much away when I tell you this is a secret baby story; it’s revealed early on. I am not usually a big fan of that plotline, but Perrin takes it seriously, playing out issues that would arise in a real situation one by one and coming up with a plausible reason why her heroine might have fled when she did. Callie admits that keeping her child secret from its father was not the best choice, but she’s doing her best to remedy the situation.
She held no illusions that she and Nigel would reconnect romantically. Too much time had passed for that to happen. She had gone on with her life, and he had gone on with his…
…Nigel gritted his teeth. He wanted to hear Callie say that after all these years, nagging guilt was why she was finally here at his place. He didn’t want to hear that he was the fallback plan. That if something tragic happened to her, he would then be good enough for his son.
…Love, he thought sourly. He had loved Callie, but how did a woman who had claimed to love him lie to him for all these years?
Meanwhile, there are added complications related to the hero’s job as a detective. Nigel’s job was a major reason for Callie fleeing the state without informing him of her pregnancy (caused by a broken condom). The two had originally been drawn together in college, by social activism. After one of Callie’s friends is badly beaten by police, resulting in his death, she feels betrayed when Nigel, instead of working with her against the injustice, decides to join the police force, his own way of fighting for justice.
Because it was Nigel’s decision to join the police force— to cross over to the dark side, as she had seen it then—that had been the start of much of their problems. Back when she’d been in Cleveland, Callie hadn’t trusted the police, and Nigel hadn’t trusted them all that much, either. There had been far too many cases of young black males who had been beaten while being arrested, or even shot. Cases of what clearly constituted overzealous police officers arresting black males who had gotten into trouble. Yes, some of these youths were clearly acting out, but there had to be a better way to deal with them.
…she had no doubt that Nigel would become just like the others, forced to toe the party line. Because the truth was, even after Jeremiah had been killed, the officers who’d witnessed the attack did not take a stand against the officer who’d overzealously beaten him. They had instead defended the cop.
If you like linked romances, and you’ve never tried a secret baby plotline, you might find Always in My Heart to be an interesting read.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. She has a World War One-set Spice Brief out in May titled “Under Her Uniform,” a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.