“Romance novels are birthday cake and life is often peanut butter and jelly. I think everyone should have lots of delicious romance novels lying around for those times when the peanut butter of life gets stuck to the roof of your mouth.” Janet Evanovich, 1988
Now that Evanovich has moved on from writing romance novels to the Stephanie Plum series and others (just pick one already!) her quote about romance novels makes me think of Leanne Banks. Banks writes those delicious romance novels that counteract the peanut butter of life. She has a light hand and there are typically moments of laugh-out-loud humor in her stories. Her latest, Happy New Year, Baby Fortune, is no exception. What a wonderful way to start a new year.
As she rings in the new year in Horseback Hollow, Texas, single mom Stacey Fortune Jones tries to count her blessings. She has an adorable baby girl, Piper; supportive parents; good friends. Best of them all is Colton Foster, her longtime neighbor from the ranch next door. He always seems to be around when she needs him. Trouble is, she may be starting to need him a bit too much.
She’s off-limits, Colton keeps telling himself. The tall, muscular rancher turns to mush every time he sees Stacey. But falling for his little sister’s best friend seems wrong on so many levels. She’s on the rebound. She’s got a baby. She’s…complicated. What’s a big-hearted cowboy to do?
Banks’s book is the first in a new six-book continuity series for Harlequin Special Edition. The series tells the story of the Fortune family. Adopted at birth, Jeanne Jones, Stacey’s mother, finds her birth family the Fortunes. Highly successful, the Fortunes welcome Jeanne and her family with open arms. However, not all the Jones siblings are as welcoming of the new family. There is some resentment of the affluences the Fortunes enjoyed growing up that the Joneses did not. This secondary plot of merging the various families will prove to be interesting as the series continues.
Stacey, while welcoming of her new family has little time for family dynamics, she has her hands fun taking care of her infant daughter. Dumped by her fiancé when he learned she was pregnant, Stacey has been raising Piper alone. She’s given up on finding the right someone, thinking that no one wants to take on an instant family. She is content to raise her daughter and try to find her place in the world.
Colton is also trying to find his place in the world. He’s managing his family’s ranch, which mostly entails trying to keep his father from hurting himself doing strenuous chores. He works long hours on the ranch and has time for little else. Though he begins seeing Stacey in an effort to cheer her up, their dates also serve to cheer him up. They both find each other at the right time to make a relationship work. They were fun to watch as they navigated the waters of a relationship with a baby involved.
This novel is an interesting twist on the best friend’s older brother trope. Prior to their encounter at a New Year’s Eve wedding, neither Stacey nor Colton had considered the other in a romantic fashion. In fact, they really weren’t even friends growing up. The addition of little Piper makes things even more complicated. This shared history, but lack of closeness, gives their romance an added spark when they get together.
As always, Banks has a deft hand with characters and settings. She brings to life the Fortunes of Texas so you begin to care about the family. She’s the perfect author to kick of this series and I can’t wait to see what’s next.