In Name Only
by Janet Bieber, historical (2000)
Ivy, $6.50, ISBN 0-449-00285-3

I gave this book a look at the bookshop the other day, but decided against picking it up as it has a rather same-y plot (the back cover says so anyway). I've read too many Nanny Loves Her Rich Employer to the point of overkill.

Then the day after that I happened to chance upon this book in Amazon and the author wrote a really nice introduction to the book on that page. It's a lovely tale of family memories and a cute doggie. Even though the author's previous book Highland Bride is a pretty forgettable book, I can't resist. Next thing I know I find myself flagging the first cab I see and demanding that the man take me to the bookshop ASAP.

Well, so much for that. In Name Only doesn't even pretend to be original. It has marriage of convenience, sullen kids in need of a supernanny, the supernanny, the rich surly Von Trapp clone, and the mad daddy. To the author's credit, she tries, and there are light moments that made me smile. But the whole story is just too familiar and unexciting for its own good.

Ian Patterson marries Lily MacPherson despite her mad daddy's wishes. That doesn't stop Mad Daddy from enjoying her Wicked, Reviled Son-in-law's money by the way, that old fake. After a pretty typical first marriage, Lily doesn't survive her fifth childbirth and Ian is left to play the romantic single daddy who more or less ignores his four kiddies. Enter Lily's sister Valeriana (Ana).

She is a staunch advocate of morals and everything virtue, which is appropriate, I guess, since she is raised by her Mad Daddy. Having prepared to tolerate the reprobate of her brother-in-law to take care of the kids, she steels herself for the worst as she storms the Patterson house. I love these martyrs, really. Wish they can come over and clean my house. For the sake of my poor kids, of course.

But hey, since Ian looks so hot, her morals take a severe beating. She is also stunning (but she doesn't know it, since Mad Daddy doesn't like his kids to be vain and petty) and Ian predictably wonders if her inhibitions would fall along with her prissy buttoned-up dresses. The four kids thoughtfully put on their We Poor Souls act and scram when Daddy and Aunt Ana want to play doctor. Somehow, along the way they marry, but Ana demands that they have a marriage in name only.

At this point I am hard-pressed to keep my attention on the book. It is really something though, to have a book that combines the Nanny theme with the Marriage In Name theme and still manage to be flatter than flat. I'm surprised to find myself liking the kids, the cardboard tykes they are, much more than the adults in the story.

I really don't know what to say about In Name Only, really. It's well-written, and it's adequate as a comfort read. But with so many things familiar in the plot, the story loses whatever emotional poignancy it may have. It is, I'm afraid, merely average. Love that author's introduction on the Amazon page though. Wish the author has kept the warmth in that short piece in her book.

Rating: 60

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