This is apparently the author's 100th book for Harlequin. That is a HELL of a lot of words any way you cut it. Knowing that most category romances run around the 40,000 word mark, that makes it over 4 million published words for Carol Marinelli.
And in those 4 million words, she has absolutely perfected the art of romantic storytelling.
I've read a fair few secret baby books, and the story always seems to start off the same way - with the heroine agonizing guiltily over how she's going to tell the hero, or worse, with him finding out and storming in on her to autocratically take over her life and generally act like a gigantic ass. This one changes all that by starting in the right place... at the very beginning, before the hero and heroine even meet.
We get to know Raul and his reasoning for wanting to take Lydia away from her potential suitor before the two of them even speak, and that makes his motivations much more understandable, his entire position much more reasonable, than if his Tragic Past had been slowly revealed over the course of the book. Instead, we're rooting for him to find happiness right from the beginning, hoping for him to be able to open his heart to Lydia.
Of course, the book's title gives away what's coming, but I still found myself wincing as Lydia found herself in a situation with no easy way out. Or rather, there was an easy way out - I won't spoiler the story by telling you what - but she chose not to take it, and to fight for what she wanted.
Carol Marinelli does a great job of flipping a tired trope on its head and giving it a fresh new story, and I absolutely recommend you give The Innocent's Secret Baby a try. Five stars.
The Innocent's Secret Baby will be released on February 21st.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.