Review: Family Affair by Debbie Macomber (1994)

Heat Factor: Kisses only

Character Chemistry: Through the power of love, our heroine grows a spine

Plot: His cat knocks up her cat and she demands kitten support

Overall: Nothing terribly offensive, but nothing terribly interesting either

Public Service Announcement, courtesy of Bob Barker:  

You might think that your cat’s romance will lead to an excellent meet-cute, but even though it happens here, signs point to… nah. (Also, don’t buy a kitten from a pet store. If you want a purebred Abyssinian, go to a reputable breeder.)

I mean, she’s cute and all, but you could also get a kitten from your local animal shelter / cat rescue organization

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about whether and how Family Affair works as a love story.

The basic premise is that Lacey is still recovering from getting divorced; she believed in true love, thought marriage was forever, and so on – and so was shocked to her core when her husband left her for another woman. Now she lives in a new city, and has sworn off men and romance, especially with her neighbor, who is always hitting on her and also always fighting with some woman who he wants to move in with him.

Then, her cat gets pregnant. So she finally starts talking to the neighbor. Jack has been interested in her for months, and has been patiently biding his time until she’s not so fragile and he can pounce on her and save her and love her. (That woman he’s always fighting with is his sister. More on that in a minute.) Jack and Lacey spend time together. You know, for the cat children. And then they go on dates and stuff. The whole time, Jack is nice and respectful and all that, but I couldn’t help thinking that it was a little bit creepy the way he sort of watched and waited for almost a full year, because he could just tell that Lacey was the perfect woman for him, and also that she needed his love to be whole.

Admittedly, Jack and Lacey do have some sweet moments together, so that’s nice.

The thing about this book is that it is more conservative than the smut I normally read. Or more provincial, which might be a side effect of its age – the characters felt much more small town than the ones in many of the more recently published romances that actually take place in small towns. Not because they don’t have sex (they almost do, but cat birth intervenes), but because of some of the judgments and decisions that the characters make.

Some examples:

  • Jack and Lacey go for a dinner in Chinatown in San Francisco. Solid decision. The heroine loves spicy Chinese food. Still with you. The hero orders them Szechuan Chicken. I side-eye any dude who orders all the food for the table, but some people might like it, so ok. The heroine loves the food, and the reader is informed that she has never had Szechuan Chicken before. What. (I am a judgmental urban bitch? Maybe. But this bothered me all out of proportion.)
  • Premarital sex is ok (I think), but shacking up before marriage is a RECIPE FOR DISASTER. (I should tell that to literally every single one of my married friends – since they lived together first, their relationships are dooooooooomed.) Remember the sister? Jack wants her to move in with him because he doesn’t approve of her living with her boyfriend. Of course, narratively, Jack is vindicated because the boyfriend is a sleazebag.

The ending reinforces the conservative vibe of the book. (Plus, includes a deeply questionable life choice.) Spoiler below.

After one month of dating, Lacey has figured out that being in love again has helped her let go of her marriage. Along the way, she has learned to stand up for herself, and told her boss that he needs to value her, and gotten a raise. But then! Jack is getting transferred to a new job in Seattle. So OF COURSE she is going to give up her job (which she says she loves but really just complains about all the time) and move to a new city and get married to a guy she has not yet slept with because he said that he hoped that two months of long distance would make her miss him enough to want to get married?!?!?! It wasn’t even a real marriage proposal – he was like, “I would like to marry you some day” and she was like “I DO!”

I foresee another divorce in Lacey’s future.

Buy Now: Amazon

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