A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A sweet, gentle read that unfortunately came across more as a baby manual than a romance.
Srikkanth Bhattacharya is a quintessential gay bachelor and perfectly happy about it — until he gets a call from the local hospital telling him his best friend died in childbirth. Sri had agreed to provide the sperm to make Jill’s dream of motherhood come true, but he’d never expected to have to make decisions for a baby girl. He intends to place her with an adoptive family, but once he sees her, Sri can’t bring himself to do it, so now he’s struggling to learn how to deal with a newborn.
His housemate and friend, Jaime Frias, volunteers to help, never guessing he’ll fall in love with both the baby and Sri. Everything seems perfect until a visit from Social Services sends Sri into a tailspin, feeling like he has to choose between his daughter and a relationship with the man he’s coming to love.
The is title is part of the Dreamspinner Press Dreamspinner Makes a Difference collection. 5% of all profits from this title will be donated to the Family Equality Council & COLAGE, both orgs working to advance full social and legal equality for LGBT families.
There are a few things that you must like to enjoy reading Her Two Dads: you must like very sweet, gentle books, and you must love babies. If one or both of those don’t appeal to you, then please pass this one by. Then, if you answer “yes” to the first test, you then must be tolerant of a somewhat flawed romance and product placement/brand name overload in your story. If either of those bother you, be warned that there is a heavy dose of both here. I guess what I am saying is that this book isn’t for everyone. I suspect that there will be those who will love it for what it is, and those who will hate it. Me? I fall somewhere in between. I picked it up because I do love sweet books with babies/kids and multi-cultural/racial couples, and the blurb appealed to me, as did the cute cover. Plus, I have read and enjoyed books by this author solo and teamed up with others. In the end, though, I had mixed feelings about Her Two Dads, and while I didn’t dislike it, it was an overall disappointment for me on a few levels as well as bothersome on others.
The story opens with Srikkanth receiving a phone call from the local hospital with the horrible news that his best friend, Jill, has died during childbirth. He gets the call because not only is Jill an orphan and he is her emergency contact, he is listed as the baby’s father. Sri offered to donate his swimmers to Jill so she could have a baby without the attachment of a man, but that was to be the end of his involvement. Now placed in the unwelcome position of having to make decisions regarding the baby’s future, he finds that he cannot go through with the intention of placing her up for adoption. Bringing her home — the home that he shares with two other single gay men — his life is turned upside-down in ways he had never dreamed. He has no idea about bottles and diapers and car seats and colic, but luckily, Jaime, one of his housemates, had helped raise his two younger sibs and is more than happy to lend a hand. Soon the two men are totally in love with little Sophie and looking at each other in a new light. Though having some attraction before, Sri and Jaime had agreed when Jaime moved in that they would not add sex to their relationship, but the months of closeness working with Sophie have them revisiting the issue. It’s not easy being a first-time parent when you are unprepared, and it’s made more difficult when prejudiced outsiders cause problems for your non-traditional family.
What worked for me:
Her Two Dads is a well-written, very gentle, at-times saccharin read, with little action outside of a screaming baby and someone who calls Social Services with allegations of child endangerment, causing Sri to freak out. Though I was good with the gentleness — I like taking a break from the shooting and car chases and terrorist plots and dancing all night and BMs — it is possible that some readers could be bored.
I love a slow build-up to the smexxin, where feelings develop — both friendship and romantic — and we have that here in spades (in fact, some may be consider it overboard on the wait). I liked how they had made the decision early on not to be involved and stuck with it until they were sure that’s what they both wanted. Realizing that it would not just affect them, but Sophie as well, shows maturity that I respected. I had some other issues around the romance element, though, which I’ll talk about later.
I liked both main characters, and I sympathized with Sri being handed a huge change in his life completely unexpectedly. On some ways, Jaime reminded me of me in how he just jumped in there and helped with no problem. Coming from the family he did, it made sense to me.
I think I will ultimately file this book under the two categories: “baby/brand overload” and “missed opportunity” with some issues thrown in.
The biggest problem I had was that overall the story read more like a baby manual for the first-time parent than a romance. Much of the book, and especially the first part, was focused pretty much completely on Sophie, her care, and Sri/Jaime’s feelings around it. Add to that the product placement/brand overload that we are assaulted with, and I was not very happy. There are times when a brand name lends to the story — such as mentioning the car being driven or the place they stopped to eat so the reader can visualize — but here, I think the author could easily have said “sling bags are pretty comparable, with some being a little less expensive” instead of “There’s the Daddys Matter sling bags or the Timberland ones. Timberland is a little less expensive, but other than that, they’re pretty comparable.” This is just one example of many for bottles, formula, strollers, bathtubs and the like.
Second, I felt there was huge missed potential in the cultural conflict. Here we have two men from cultures that are relatively intolerant of homosexuality — Sri is Indian and Jaime is some flavor of Latino — yet in both cases, there is very little (read “just about no”) problems with the families. While it is possible, certainly, for it to happen, I found it somewhat difficult to believe. Related to this, I felt that the sub-plot of Sri’s parents was underdeveloped and skipped over. I think it would have enhanced the story to have them be more present in some form. And for them to show up as they did, with the timing that was presented…well, I think it was meant to be sweet and even tear-inducing, but, well, to me it felt contrived and I felt cheated.
Another thing was that I had problems with the chemistry between Sri and Jaime. I just didn’t feel it. I felt friendship, even affection, but not a lot more. Additionally, I thought both men loved the baby more than each other, and even though it was a slow build-up that I like, I had a difficult time investing myself in the romantic element of the story.
And lastly, because I’m me and I wonder about these things, I want to know what happened to all of Jill’s stuff, like her apartment/house, all of its contents, a will, contacting her job, and such. She is an orphan with no living relatives from what we are told, so who takes care of that? Also, if she is the type to have prepared for being a single parent, did she buy things for the baby? What happened to those things? And what about a funeral? Would/should Sri have shouldered that? Related to this, I didn’t get the sense that he was devastated by Jill’s death in a way that I would expect a best friend to be. He’s known this girl since middle school, been very close, offered to father her child, yet only a few times is she and whatever his grief was mentioned.
If you love books featuring babies/children, and you can get past the brand overload, then it is quite possible that you’ll like this one. For me, however, it was a bit disappointing.