Finding Perfect by Susan Mallery
published by HQN Books in August 2010
When Pia O’Brian’s best friend dies, Pia expects to inherit her cherished cat. Instead, the woman leaves Pia three frozen embryos. With a disastrous track record in the romance department and the parenting skills of a hamster, Pia doesn’t think she’s meant for motherhood. But determined to do the right thing, Pia decides to become a single mother. Only to meet a gorgeous, sexy hunk the very same day.Genre: Contemporary romance
A former foster-care kid now rich beyond his wildest dreams, Raoul Moreno runs a camp for needy children in Fool’s Gold, California. After his last relationship, Raoul thought he was done with women and commitment. Still, he can’t get sweet, sexy Pia out of his mind — and proposes a crazy plan. But can such an unconventional beginning really result in the perfect ending?
Series: Fool's Gold series, Book #3
The Story: Finding Perfect starts off with Pia discovering that instead of inheriting Crystal's cat, Jake, like she expected, she got Crystal's three frozen embryos. To say it's a shock is an understatement and it leaves Pia in a difficult situation. Pia has serious doubts about her abilities as a mother, but at the same time, these embryos are Crystal's children and she can't ignore that. In the end, Pia decides to go ahead with the procedure and lucky for her, she has Raoul Moreno - talk, dark and handsome retired football player.
Raoul longs for children, but after his failed marriage, is wary of being in love. Seeing Pia's predicament, Raoul first proposes to be her "pregnancy buddy," but later offers her a marriage of convenience where he'll be able to help her take care of the babies. Knowing that she'll need all the help, Pia accepts... but what happens when love is involved?
My Opinion: When I read the blurb of Finding Perfect, I was very wary of the plotline. I wasn't sure I really wanted to read the story of a woman who inherited frozen embryos, of all things ^_^; In the end, I decided to give Finding Perfect a chance because of a few factors: 1) curiosity - I wondered how Ms Mallery would pull this off, 2) I really enjoyed Almost Perfect and 3) Raoul Moreno. Raoul was a great teenager in Sweet Spot and I wanted to see what a great man he became.
Overall, I thought that Finding Perfect was a bag of mixed results. The writing was good and the characters were likable, although perhaps a bit two-dimensional. There were also some comical moments, what with the sudden influx of men and the women of Fool's Gold putting up a talent show to impress them ^_^; What didn't really work with me though was the whole frozen embryos plotline. The idea of leaving someone her frozen embryos is very unusual, but it wasn't a bad one per se. In vitro fertilization is a contemporary subject and has become more and more common and is somewhat connected to romance. What I didn't really like was the circumstances.
Seriously, we've read books where the heroine or hero was named guardian for kids without warning and that was pretty bad. Leaving your frozen embryos to someone without telling her is WAY WORST!! I know that Crystal had faith in Pia and believed she would be a good mother and so did everyone else. However, it doesn't change the fact that she put Pia in a very difficult situation. Pia finds herself with embryos - the last remnants - of her friend. If she has the babies, it'll be a part of Crystal coming back to life... if she doesn't, she'll be the one responsible for it... It's a horrible situation to be in, especially when you never really considered motherhood. I thought that Crystal was incredibly selfish and took advantages of Pia's goodness. If at least, she had discussed it with Pia, prepared her for it... but no, this is all dump on Pia and she doesn't really have anyone to talk to. Everyone around her are all so happy - easy for them, they're not in the situation.
This leads me to something I thought very unbelievable. I was totally surprised that it took Pia less than a month to come to her decision and get the implantation. Really? She still has doubts about motherhood and even with Raoul's offer of help - which at first, was only to be her "pregnancy buddy," it will change her entire life as it is... and she just goes ahead, just like that. Also, we're not talking about one baby, but the possibility of triplets!! There was no hurry for Pia - Crystal paid for storage for three years. I would think a woman faced with this situation would take her time, starts changing her life before doing something so big... As a result, I don't think it was very believable :( The reason that was given for Pia acting so fast is so she wouldn't change her mind.... but this is so big. It's true that, would Pia has taken more time, she would still probably have gone ahead with the procedure, still. In the end though, what bothered me the most is that Pia kept referring to the babies as "Crystal's children." Lady, you're going to give birth to them!!! True, they'll have Crystal's DNA... but they'll be much more your children than Crystal's!
There was another thing in Finding Perfect that didn't make sense to me and that is the side story. In the side story, Raoul befriends a little boy who's in foster care and Raoul suspects the boy is being abused. In the end, we find out that he's not abused, but neglected. Raoul successfully gets him out of that foster home and everyone expects Raoul to take in the little boy, but Raoul refuses, saying that it was never his intention... All he wanted was to be sure the little boy was safe. This part totally puzzles me. I mean, Raoul was a foster kid who was lucky to be taken in by his high school football coach, Hawk. Nowadays, he tours school and talk to kids about motivation and tells them that what changed his life was Hawk becoming his mentor and if they can, to find one. Also, add the fact that Raoul wants kids and he doesn't care whether they're his or not - I mean, he's ready to adopt Pia's, right? So, why did he turn down the little boy?!? He didn't have to adopt him - he could just have taken him in. Raoul knows what it is to be a foster kid and finding someone who cares for him... He went through it and here, he can do it for a little boy. It's not much different taking a little boy in then taking responsibility for 3 newborns! Or is it only me?
Okay, so aside from those two issues, the book was okay. Like I mentioned earlier, Pia and Raoul were likable characters... although, I thought they were a bit under-developed. I didn't really get a sense of who Pia and Raoul really were. Pia is the busy bee in Fool's Gold, in charge of one event after another. She works hard at it and is very nice and sociable. She has a pretty bad past and I guess, it is meant to showcase her strength and determination. However, I'm not sure such a past was really necessary. Ah well. As for Raoul, I don't know. I feel we missed a huge chunk of his life, actually the most important years of his life. The transition from what we knew and what he became were just words, I didn't feel the connection. Same thing with Hawk and Nicole, the H/H of Sweet Spot, when they visited him. I guess I just expected a bit more connection to Sweet Spot, more mention of his past, more ties... instead of just stating facts.
Finally, there is a lot going on in Finding Perfect with the frozen embryos and the side story and it kind of overshadows the romance. I didn't really feel the chemistry between Pia and Raoul :( The romance was really fast and I'm not sure they really got to know each other. Attraction, yes. Lust, yes. Love, not sure. It also doesn't help the romance that the conflict is the same as the two previous books - marriage proposal without love.
My Grade: From this review, it's obvious that I had issues with Finding Perfect; however, it doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it. I thought Finding Perfect was quite interesting with the moral question it brought up. I liked the feel of it. I've read books by Ms Mallery where I was so frustrated by the characters that it left a bad taste in my mouth... However, Finding Perfect was nice. I also enjoyed the side story, I liked seeing Raoul interact with the little boy. So really, Finding Perfect was not a perfect read, but not a complete disaster either. It gets a C+ for me.