Happily Even After by Lena Matthews

March 7, 2014 Contemporary, Reviews 10

Book cover for Happily Even After by Lena Matthews. A shirtless white man embraces the pregnant belly of a nude black woman.Two kids and a divorce later, Creigh De Luca figures she’s pretty much done with diapers and late night feedings. That is until a little blue stripe turns her world upside down. Never in a billion years would Creigh have thought she’d become pregnant from a one-night stand, nor could she have ever guessed the unforeseen pregnancy would warrant unexpected help…from her ex-husband, Dean.

Divorce papers haven’t changed a thing for Dean. He’s still as in love with his ex-wife as he’d always been. Despite the fact he’s not the father of her unborn child, Dean is determined to help Creigh during her pregnancy–whether she wants him to or not.

Creigh has never stopped loving Dean, but she’s not going to let him back into her life just because she’s expecting a child, especially since she is determined to keep the father’s identity from Dean. But Dean refuses to be dismissed so easily. He knows that with a little patience, forgiveness, and love they can still live happily even after.

Of course after I write this whole post talking about how I have no time to write, I end up seeing this book on tumblr, buying it, and then finishing it in practically one sitting, taking a few hours in between to sleep. I paid for it the next day, trust me. I actually think I’m still paying for it. I just fell asleep during a House Hunters: Where Are They Now? marathon. But enough about my problems.

I was instantly drawn to this book and at the same time, a little put off. I’ve been looking for more titles by women of color and this met that criteria. The heroine is also a woman of color, another plus. I also have this weird thing for romances with moms and kids/expecting heroines. A while back I asked twitter for recs that fit that bill, and was put on to Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer, one of my favorite romances to date. The Blurb told me that HEA had pretty much everything I was looking for, without Dean also being a lesbian cowboy.

I was nervous, though. See that little part of the blurb – Dean is determined to help Creigh during her pregnancy–whether she wants him to or not. – had me concerned that I’d be dealing with a Grade A Alphahole. There’s a window annually when the planets align and I haven’t had an argument with my mother in a while and I’ve just received a book check and had a good meal, when I can handle a dick head hero, but this was not one of those times, so yeah, the blurb’s portrayal of Dean had me a little nervous. Instead of watching The Adventures of Rick and Morty, I climbed into bed with Happily Even After, and I have to say I’m glad I did.

Matthews jumps right into the story in the first scene with Creigh dropping her kids off at Dean’s house for the weekend. She knows she’s pregnant, and she knows she’s going to keep the child, and she knows she has to tell her ex. The framing of the reveal was well done. Creigh isn’t freaking out about what Dean will say or do. She’s genuinely worried about how her other children, who are 7 and 9, will process the information. Even though Dean is worried and extremely pissed, he agrees that he should support her and their children through this surprising situation. This first scene warmed me to both Dean and Creigh. Matthews does a great job of writing realistically uncomfortable situations without making either character unlikable with their reactions. I felt for Creigh ‘cause HOLY SHIT AWKWARD! and I felt for Dean because he is a good father and still very much in love with Creigh.

I was waiting for Dean to pull some dumb caveman shit, but luckily he kept it together. He does drive by Creigh’s house just to check on her and the kids, but I saw that more as he was lonely and missing his family, not a craze stalker. The kids, alone, make it necessary for Creigh and Dean to see each other. Their interactions are never forced.

As the story moves along, you find out why they split and why Creigh is hesitant to take Dean back. Again, Matthews paints both characters as people who are reasonably hurt. No one is the villain. Rather, two people who are bad at communicating their anger and frustration are SURPRISE, bad at communicating their anger and their frustration, as well as their genuine appreciation of each other. By the end both characters do change in ways necessary for their marriage to work.

The story features a white man and a black woman. I didn’t know how much Matthews was going to touch on race. It is mentioned a few times in regards to their kids who are biracial, the paternity of Surprise Baby, and then in both Dean and Creigh’s dating life after their marriage is over. Matthews specifically states that though both are not on that color-blind crap and both acknowledge that their race is an issue for other people, in terms of them being together, they simply love each other and have since they were kids. I think this is the way it should be done.

Another thing I liked about this story was the supporting characters. Dean’s parents have passed away and Creigh was raised by a single mom, but we do meet her mother who was great, as well as Creigh’s cousin, A-mei, Dean’s brothers Serigo and Gino, and of course, their kids, Hamilton (I kept thinking of the Great Hambino from The Sandlot) and Harlow. All of these character were sweet and funny, but I loved Harlow and Hamilton. Hamilton was freaking adorable, and one scene between Harlow and Dean had me sobbing like a fool. I also have this headcanon going where A-mei and Sergio, who both work for Creigh at her flower shop, are knocking boots behind Creigh and Dean’s backs. I also might have emailed the author about it. Maybe.

The only thing I didn’t love about this story was the length of the sex scenes. They were very well written. Creigh lets herself go and Dean is just a stud in the bedroom. And the kitchen. And the living room. And in his car. Matthews also does a good job of portraying Creigh’s insecurities about her changing body. However, I felt that some of the later sex scenes were too long. The writing is so good and the characters so interesting I wanted more of that and less of the humping. All in, Matthews creates extremely likable characters and a gripping plot. I wanted this family back together. There is a follow-up title with Dean and Creigh that I may read.

When I finished I did a little digging and realized I had another of Matthew’s titles on my to-read this. I will be checking out He’s So Shy and The Good, The Bad and The Naughty pretty soon.

Final Assessment: Definitely read it. This is interracial romance done right. Grade: A-/B+

Series: The Second Time Around Series (book #1)

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A queer romance author of color who will read just about anything, for science, or this blog. She gravitates toward post Civil War era historical romance, westerns, BDSM erotic romance, LGBT romance and erotica. She’s interested in trying out more New Adult titles with multicultural characters, romances/erotic titles of any subgenre with Transgender characters, stories with Native American characters, especially if they are written by Native American authors, horror and romantic suspense.

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10 Responses to “Happily Even After by Lena Matthews”

  1. Tina

    This is one of my favorites. I think Dean was the MVP of the story. What a man. What a father.

  2. Beks

    @Tina: I agree. I was so afraid he was going to be a controlling bully, but he ended up being such a great guy. I’m not so secretly hoping she comes back to the these characters. I want Serigo and A-mei’s story.

  3. Rosario

    I’m not big on kids in romance or pregnant heroines, but I’m going to try this one. From your review, it sounds like Creigh and Dean feel like real people, and that’s my main requirement!

  4. Ridley

    I’ve had this author on my to-buy list for ages and this review makes me wonder what I’m waiting for.

  5. Beks

    @Rosario: hey, R! she has other titles that dont have kiddos. check out her site and see if something else snags your attention. :D

  6. Beks

    @Ridley: pull the trigger. pull the trigger. i seriously have things to do with my life and im thinking about starting He’s So Shy tonight.

  7. Tina

    Another good one of hers is Priceless. It is a retelling of the The Gift of the Magi. The couple here are married and kinda broke. The husband is a medical resident who has student loans. She is working extra shifts and is helping to put him through med school. He wants to give her a fantastic gift for Christmas but is a little ashamed that he can’t really afford anything. Good story.

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