Help Wanted: an Assignment: Romance novel
Barbara Valentin, author
When Claire Nelson decided that her happily-ever-after lay not in marriage but in a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, she vowed never to tie the knot. But that was before she met Paul Mendez, handsome and charming enough to have her breaking said vow and marrying him shortly after college. Almost fifteen years and four sons later, Claire is now a burned out breadwinner ready to ditch her quest for happily-ever-after, and Paul has traded his dream of chairing corporate board meetings for volunteering at PTA meetings as a stay-at-home dad. Feeling trapped in a demanding job, Claire's repeated attempts to get Paul to return to work fall flat. Contemplating divorce, she drafts a letter to the Plate Spinner, a popular advice columnist, asking for help. But when the reply contains an offer that may just put her bestselling author dreams back on track, Claire’s only question is: will Paul be on board? Or does her charming husband make a surprise move of his own?
Themes of marriage, gender roles, and compromises between money and joy are effectively conveyed with heartfelt tenderness in Valentin’s second Assignment: Romance contemporary. Claire Mendez is an overwhelmed and overworked mother of four. She resents her husband, Paul; just months after losing his job at a prestigious investment firm and taking over as primary caregiver for the kids, he was dubbed Mom of the Year by their school PTA. Claire blames Paul for their economic woes, urges him to get a new job, and emotionally distances herself from him, only to be fired from the tech writing job she hates. Now she’s sexually and emotionally frustrated, and torn between job-hunting and pursuing her dream to become a writer. Rich characterization adds to the palpable emotional and sexual tension between Claire and Paul as they struggle to balance their attraction to each other with their fears and needs. Valentin deftly interweaves characters and situations from the first novel, False Start, as Claire meets prior heroine Mattie and tries her hand at being a freelancing advice columnist, while Paul pursues a job opening in the same building. Though Claire’s stubbornness and self-pity sometimes threaten her likability, Valentin keeps the story bubbling with humor and romance. (BookLife)