Lee Tobin McClain is a master of deep conflict between the hero and the heroine. Every time I read one of her romance novels, I marvel at the skill with which she drops hints of the secrets and inner conflicts of her characters. Seriously! At the start of Wise at Heart, we immediately see the first layer of secrets, just enough to make the reader wonder what will happen when the hero finds out, because we know he will! But then the secrets get deeper and the stakes get greater. Just read this book. You’ll get what I mean!
Also, I adore Daniel’s twins, Kaylee and Haylee. In their story, Lee addresses how chronic illness can affect a family. That’s all the hint I’ll give on that one!
We’ve already met the Quintana siblings in the previous stories in McClain’s Romance from the Heart series. Alex got his story in Sheltered Hearts (part of Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley), and Javier reunited with Molly in Secrets of the Heart. Both brothers are actively running the family restaurant, El Corazon. Daniel, a chiropractor, is less involved, and we learn the reasons why in the pages of Wise at Heart.
Here’s the official description of Wise at Heart:
When chiropractor Daniel Quintana needs a summer nanny for his twins, it only makes sense to hire Tabitha Moore. Just back from an extended mission trip, she needs the job. The fact that she was his wife’s best friend shouldn’t matter, and neither should the fact that he finds her attractive. Daniel’s not in the market for relationships because he’s just so bad at them.
Tabitha Moore doesn’t want to work for Daniel, because she knows a terrible secret about his daughters. But when staying with her sister is no longer an option, she feels like she has no choice. After all, it’s just for the summer…
With the help of Daniel’s five-year-old twins, Daniel and Tabitha start to become more than friends. Growing vegetables, rescuing a mama cat and her kittens, eating delicious Mexican food at El Corazon… all of it makes these two lonely souls crave to create a family long term… unless Tabitha’s secret rips apart everything they’re starting to build.
Here’s an excerpt:
Tabitha Moore saw the answer on the library board’s faces even before the head librarian, Charlotte MacGregor, opened her mouth.
“I’m so sorry, Tabby,” Charlotte said. “Helping to support a bookmobile in Tanzania sounds wonderful, we’re all about getting books into people’s hands, but we don’t have any funds to organize it.”
“If you wanted to do it on a volunteer basis…” another woman—Elise?—suggested.
Tabitha forced a smile at the board members, already gathering up their things, all obviously eager to get home for dinner. “Thanks so much for hearing me out,” she said into a room that wasn’t listening. “If anything changes…”
“We’ll contact you, of course.” Charlotte said. “We really appreciate your coming in. I wish there were more we could do to help, but with our limited budget…” She patted Tabitha’s arm on her way out of the meeting room.
“It’s fine.” And it was, really. After six years of missionary work in Tanzania, first-world problems like not having a job, or her own place to live, didn’t bother Tabitha nearly as much as they would’ve when she’d headed over there.
“How’d it go?” Tabitha’s best friend, Veronica Quintana, walked into the now-deserted meeting room and started helping Tabitha bag up her materials.
“It didn’t.” Tabitha stuffed her laptop into her briefcase, along with a stack of pamphlets. “No budget.”
“What are you going to do?” Veronica perched on the table.
Tabitha leaned against the podium where she’d just given her unsuccessful pitch. “Not sure. I’ll figure something out.”
Her phone buzzed, and when she picked it up, she saw that the lock screen had three messages from her sister. That couldn’t be good. She read through them and then, wordlessly, handed the phone to Veronica.
Veronica skimmed the messages. “She’s kicking you out? Seriously?”
“The kids want their bedrooms back. I get it. Kind of.” When she’d arrived back in Arcadia Valley, Idaho, she’d crashed at her sister’s place. Which meant that her sister’s two teenagers had to share a room.
“You’ve been here less than a week, and the little brats already…” Veronica clapped a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry. I know you love your nieces, but they can be selfish. And your sister’s letting them run the home!”
“She does.” And, actually, Tabitha wouldn’t mind getting out of the small house. She tried to make a joke of the girls’ F-Bomb Funky Music, but it bothered her. Even more troubling were their bad attitudes and language toward their mother. “I just don’t know where I’m going to live. I need a job before I can afford anything.”
“You can stay with me.” Veronica offered.
“You’re sweet. And you have two exchange students staying with you in a place that’s smaller than my sister’s. I don’t think it’ll work, but you’re super kind for offering.”
“Keep it in mind. I can squeeze you in if need be.” Veronica ran her fingers through long, dark hair so similar to Tabitha’s that they’d been pegged for sisters many times. “What are you going to do about a job? I’ve been looking online for you, but I haven’t seen anything.”
“Me, too, and I’ve called everyone I know. I’m going through back issues of the paper and checking out bulletin boards and storefronts, but so far…” She sighed. “All the available jobs seem to require a degree, or a union card, or plain old physical strength I don’t have. There’s a cleaning service that’s hiring, but that’s a last resort.”
“I can ask Javier if he could take you on at El Corazon,” Veronica said doubtfully.
Tabitha laughed. “I’d be such a great waitress. People love having their dinners dropped in their laps.”
Veronica snickered. “You always were a bit of a klutz.”
“I know. And I also know the Lord will provide. I just wish He’d hurry up.”
They walked out into the main room of the Arcadia Valley library. Charlotte was back at the front desk, and the place buzzed with students doing homework, senior citizens using the computers, and children engaged in what sounded like a story time, judging from the rhythmic clapping and happy laughter from the children’s room.
Tabitha wanted to linger. She loved libraries, and reading, and children. This was a much more enjoyable environment than her sister’s overcrowded home.
Suddenly, Veronica clutched her arm. “You said you hoped God would hurry up?”
“Yeah.” Tabitha looked in the direction Veronica was looking. To where a familiar, good-looking man and two identical, sobbing little girls were coming through the door.
“I think the solution to your problem just walked in,” Veronica said.
Tabitha’s mind raced faster than her heart rate. Was Daniel Quintana a solution, or an even bigger problem?