The Black Sheep’s Redemption, by Lynette Eason, is a 2012 Harlequin in the Love Inspired (Christian Romance) Suspense line. This is number five in a set of six stories, and there are the usual references to recently married family members. Just in case you were not aware of the religious aspect of the genre, a church is prominent on the cover. In fairness, an important scene takes place in the church.
Demi is new in town. Following an attack that left her with amnesia and no identification, she winds up in a rented room above a bookstore, in the small town of Fitzgerald Bay. She gets a job, working as a nanny for Charles. Charles, a divorced doctor with toddler twins, is willing to hire a nanny with no experience, background, or ID, because his last nanny died under mysterious circumstance, and he’s a suspect. This setup is a little too soap opera for me, but let’s see where it goes.
The suspense plot is good. Someone is threatening Charles or Demi. We don’t know who is targeted, which adds to the suspense. On the other hand, they never suspect each other, which would be a nice twist (perhaps a little too darkly, I’m thinking of the final two in And Then There were None). There is also the mystery of Demi’s identity, and her original attack, though, predictably, that’s related to the current threats, or at least some of them. There are a many loose ends, which I suspect and hope are part of the series arc. The threats provide action to keep the plot bustling along – no outing or event is safe, not even a morning at church.
The romance plot is fair. The couple are together, single, see each other as decent people…sometimes that’s enough, but this is a story, and I expect more. There did not seem to be any internal obstacles to their relationship, and little in the way of external ones. Consistent with the Love Inspired line, the main characters have a religious life. It’s present, but unobtrusive in the story. (Ever notice how often religion comes up in The Simpsons? And the city nearby is Springfield – a common city name, but also the home of the Simpsons. Coincidence? Probably.) Heatwise, there’s mild longing, but no lust or sex.
Charles was married, but his wife left him. Demi also has a good reason for being single. The character histories deftly answer the question of why these people are single, a question I often have, but unfortunately an opportunity for character growth is missed. There’s no explanation why Demi is now open to a relationship, and Charles did not have to redeem himself to enter a new relationship, as he was apparently completely blameless in the divorce.
The title tells us the black sheep is redeemed, but there’s no black sheep in the story, and not much redemption either. The title could refer to Charles being a suspect, and then cleared, but that’s a minor point in the story – it does not happen due to any decision or change by a character. This is not the first time I have questioned a title, and perhaps I expect too much from my titles. Perhaps someone with a draft romance title Romance One should wait until they have come up with a good title before criticizing others.
In the end, the story does not go far from the soap opera set up. The pacing and writing is good, so it reads well enough to pass the time on the bus, but it needs more drama in the relationship to be more memorable.