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The Manning Brides (Marriage of…
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The Manning Brides (Marriage of Inconvenience / Stand-In Wife)

by Debbie Macomber

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Marriage of Inconvenience - Marriage of Inconvenience was a nice start to The Manning Sisters spin-off series, Those Manning Men. It is a sweet story of two best friends who've had one too many bad dating experiences and have given up on traditional love and marriage. However, both of them badly want a child of their own, so they agree to enter into a marriage of convenience with the intention of producing one via artificial insemination. Things don't exactly go as planned, and before they know it, they've fallen in love.

Rich is a wonderful guy and a great friend to Jamie. He's known her since they worked together on the high school year book where they constantly butted heads, but once they worked through those differences, they became the best of friends. Rich has always been there for Jamie. He's the one person she knows she can call day or night if she needs someone to share her problems or help her out. Rich is very responsible and doesn't take Jamie's proposal to father her child lightly. I liked that he refused to simply be a sperm donor, but instead wanted to be involved every step of the way in the process. He also refuses to let Jamie bear the entire burden of pregnancy and raising a child alone. He wants to be a true father in every sense of the word and for that I admired him. The realization that he'd been in love with Jamie for a long time kind of sneaks up on him, but once he figures it out, he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wants to be a permanent part of her life if she'll let him.

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I'm not sure I could have made the choices Jamie did to abandon dating and have a child on her own, but I respected her decisions. At least, she wanted someone she knew and trusted to father her baby rather than a stranger, but of course, that led to all sorts of unintended consequences. Jamie was a sweet heroine, but her biggest faults were her stubbornness and lack of communication. She tends to be one of those women who expects her man to decode her odd moods and unspoken words which could be a little frustrating at times. I have to admit though, that Rich was guilty of these things sometimes too. They were both just a little too stubborn for their own good, which led to several arguments. They have a tendency to misinterpret the other's actions, especially after sharing intimacies, which led to even more miscommunications and misunderstandings. Their obstinacy also makes them both afraid to reveal their feelings, leaving them waiting on the other one to say or do something to indicate they want more than a marriage of convenience. I suppose this could be viewed as a comedy of errors, but it did give me pause. I started to wonder if they were going to make it for the long haul since both of them were so reluctant to open up, but once they finally got past expressing their feelings, things seemed to change between them for the better.

In Marriage of Inconvenience, readers get to know Rich's two brothers a little better. Paul is a journalist and the only one of the brothers who is already married, which makes him the perfect person to give Rich a little advice on the topic. However, his marital status tragically changes, leading him to become the hero of the next book, Stand-In Wife. Jason is a veterinarian and playboy who has no intention of getting married. He is the closest of Rich's siblings and becomes the hero of the third book, Bride on the Loose. Then there is Rich's sister, Christy's ex-fiancé, James, an attorney who helps Rich and Jamie draw up a legal agreement. I had been a little disappointed that a seemingly good man like James got left out in the cold in the last book of The Manning Sisters duet, so it's nice to know that he'll get his HEA too, the fourth and last in the series, Same Time, Next Year.

Overall, Marriage of Inconvenience was a light and easy, but enjoyable read. It contained a lot of themes I typically love, so if Rich and Jamie hadn't been quite so stubborn and hadn't had so many misunderstandings, it probably would have been a keeper for me. As is, I still liked it, and the prospect of Paul, Jason, and James becoming future heroes has sufficiently whetted my appetite for more of “Those Manning Men.” Marriage of Inconvenience was originally published as a stand-alone novel in the Silhouette Special Edition line, and was later reprinted in the single-author anthology The Manning Brides along with the second book of the series.

*Stand-In Wife - Stand-In Wife is another gentle contemporary romance in Debbie Macomber's Those Manning Men series. As with the other Manning books so far, this novel didn't have a very involved plotline, but overall, it was sweet and enjoyable. In this one, Paul Manning is suddenly widowed when his wife dies of complications following childbirth. She leaves him with young twin sons and a newborn baby girl to raise. With the multiples stresses of child care, home care, his job, and grieving, Paul is barely keeping his head above water, until his dead wife's sister steps in to help out. With them living in the same house together, unexpected feelings begin to surface, leading to a marriage of convenience and much, much more.

Paul is a man at loose ends. He's grieving for the loss of his wife, but at the same time, doesn't have the luxury of taking time to really grieve with three young children to care for. He and his sister-in-law, Leah, bond over their shared loss. When she offers to move in with them, Paul appreciates her help, but his sense of pride sometimes gets in the way. I think it makes him feel rather inadequate as both a man and as a parent that he can't do it all himself. It was kind of amusing that when Paul started having confusing feelings toward Leah, he pushed her toward Rob, a guy she'd only casually dated, but then he experienced unfamiliar jealous feelings when the pair actually went out. Soon his parents convince them to marry, because of Leah having no health insurance and the children, especially baby Kelsey, viewing her as their mother. Of course, by then, Paul knows he's falling for Leah; he just doesn't fully understand the extent of his feelings until faced with the fear of losing her when she thinks she might be pregnant. Even then, he, unfortunately, doesn't go about expressing those feelings in a clear and healthy way. It's not until the end that he figures everything out and is able to tell her how he really feels in a way that she understands.

Leah was tremendously selfless to give up her teaching job to move in with Paul and take care of the kids until they're older and in school. Her sister was her only family, so Leah loves and misses her deeply. With her sister gone, Leah sees this as an opportunity to stay close to the kids, who are now the only family she has left, as well as a way to fulfill a "promise" she made to Diane when her sister appeared to her in a dream the night she died. Leah goes into it believing this to be a temporary arrangement, but when she starts having feelings for Paul and realizes she would never be able to leave the children, accepting his marriage proposal isn't a difficult choice. Still, she believes it to be little more than a marriage of convenience, because she thinks Paul could never truly love her the way he loved her sister. They're just too different. Diane was the beautiful, vivacious one, while Leah was the shy, bookish, plain Jane. Although Leah always loved her sister and never blamed or envied her, their mother always treated Diane differently, like she was the golden child, while Leah was only second-best. This still makes her feel inadequate in more ways than one, especially when she misunderstands some of Paul's words and actions. Then Leah begins, for the first time in her life, to envy Diane even though she's dead. It takes a long time for Leah to finally realize that Paul loves her every bit as much as he did Diane, but in a different way.

Things get rolling for these two when they share a passionate kiss. Both are rocked to the core but afraid to admit it, which unfortunately leads to them reading things into the other's reactions that aren't entirely true. They have an almost impossible time communicating how they really feel, because they are both confused by their emotions. Paul is still in love with his dead wife and feeling guilty for loving another woman too. It doesn't help matters that the woman in question is his wife's sister. At the same time, he thinks she was repulsed by his kiss, when of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Leah loved every minute of it but has trouble believing Paul could be attracted to her after being in love with her gorgeous, outgoing sister. As a result, they spend a lot of time around each other walking on egg shells. This lasts throughout most of the book, with the primary conflict being various misunderstandings, based on miscommunication, lack of communication, and misperceptions. This isn't my favorite form of conflict, but it seems to be par for the course in all of Debbie Macomber's books I've read so far. It wasn't too bad here, because at least, I understood most of the time where they were coming from. However, it could sometimes be a little frustrating that they didn't communicate better.

Stand-In Wife brings back Paul's brother, Rich and his wife, Jamie (Marriage of Inconvenience). We get to see the happy couple and their growing family a little ways down the road from their book. The last Manning sibling standing, Jason, becomes a sounding board for Paul and has some surprisingly good advice for someone who's never been married. This carefree bachelor becomes the hero of the next book, Bride on the Loose. Overall, Stand-In Wife was a light and easy, but enjoyable read that has left me looking forward to seeing what's in store for Jason. Stand-In Wife was originally published as a stand-alone novel in the Silhouette Special Edition line, and was later reprinted in the single-author anthology The Manning Brides along with the first book of the series. Star Rating: **** ( )
  mom2lnb | Mar 27, 2014 |
The Manning Brides contains the 3rd and 4th stories in the Manning series by Debbie Macomber. In A Marriage of Inconvenience, Rich Manning is asked by his long-time good friend, Jamie Warren, to be a sperm donor so she can have a baby. After due consideration, Rich decides, yes, but only if she marries him. What follows is an assortment of messages not left, conversations at crossed purposes, and misunderstandings as Rich and Jamie independently realise they have always loved each other. Plenty of chuckles and laugh-out-loud moments, especially as Rich tries to understand the female sex. And, as with their daughters’ marriages, once again Eric and Elizabeth Manning are cheated of the big wedding they would dearly love to organise!In Stand-in Wife, Paul Manning, six months bereaved, his wife Diane having died of complications in the birth of their daughter Kelsey, is joined in his home by Leah, Diane’s older sister, to care for his twin boys and Kelsey. Leah already loves her niece and nephews dearly, but after some time, she and Paul realise an attraction to each other. When Paul’s parents suggest they marry for pragmatic reasons, they do, although once again Eric and Elizabeth Manning are cheated of organising a fancy wedding. But the path of true love never runs smooth and Leah decides she wants to be loved for herself, rather than be a Stand-in wife.Two more classic Macombers that fans of this author will enjoy. ( )
  CloggieDownunder | Mar 16, 2012 |
Includes "Marriage of Inconvenience" and "Stand-In Wife" - two stories of how marriages that seemed to have been built on mutual needs flower into loving relationships. Lacking. ( )
  Elishibai | Dec 31, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0778324745, Mass Market Paperback)

Rich Manning and Jamie Warren have always been friends—and nothing but friends. However, that changes when she asks him to father the child she so desperately wants. Rich agrees—if she'll marry him. Because he thinks their Marriage of Inconvenience could become a real marriage instead.

Paul Manning, a grieving widower with three small children, turns to Leah Baker for help and comfort. When that comfort begins to grow into something else, Paul discovers that he wants more than a Stand-In Wife.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:19 -0400)

Rich Manning and Jamie Warren have always been friends--and nothing but friends. However, that changes when she asks him to father the child she so desperately wants. Rich agrees--if she'll marry him. Because he thinks their Marriage of Inconvenience could become a real marriage instead. Paul Manning, a grieving widower with three small children, turns to Leah Baker for help and comfort. When that comfort begins to grow into something else, Paul discovers that he wants more than a Stand-In Wife.… (more)

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