Picture This
By Raonaid
Aug 11, 2015 - 3:48:17 PM

Tess Callahan is a successful, driven, and no-nonsense divorce attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. She has witnessed first-hand the messy repercussions when relationships go sour, first with her parents and then later with her clients. Tess vows never to be dependent on a man or forfeit her hard-won independence for anyone. Nick Russo poses no threat to her independence or her jaded heart. He shares Tess's lack-of-interest in a permanent relationship, instead preferring a no-strings arrangement whenever he returns back to Atlanta. After seven months without any word from Nick, she never imagined she'd run into him at a hardware store or that Nick would discover the hard way the consequences of their last night together. Stress-related complications with Tess's pregnancy forces her to grudgingly accept Nick's help while on forced bed-rest.

Nick Russo works as a photographer for a respected magazine that sends him worldwide. To further his photography credit he takes on whatever assignment comes his way, never refusing a job when his editor calls. The machinations of an old flame has left Nick a commitment-phobe, too afraid to trust another woman with his susceptible heart. He likes Tess because she too has no inclinations of having a lasting relationship with anyone, preferring the fun of their commitment-free arrangement. Nick's growing feelings for Tess frighten him, and he accepts whatever assignment that will keep him outside the U.S., in hope that Tess will find another man. A chance encounter seven months later in a hardware store brings him to the one woman he is unable to forget. Tess's pregnancy complications spurs Nick to take an active part in his unborn baby's life.

Nick both aggravated and charmed me. His yo-yoing concern between his job and how he could be an active part of his unborn son's life while oceans away annoyed me. There are times when he came across contradictory, stating he cares for the baby but shows far more worry about his career. Yet, Nick manages to restore my shaky faith that there are still decent men out in the world willing to step up, readily accept responsibility for their actions, and want to be a part of their child's life. What I like most about Nick, and what won me over, is that he never once denied the baby's parentage but waited for Tess to confirm or deny his suspicions. I did sympathize with him on the catalyst that prompts his phobia and how that phobia often mandates his choices. Understanding the reasons behind his fear did wonders in helping me forgive Nick for his back and forth indecisiveness.

I did not know what to think of Tess at the start of the story. Usually I enjoy a stand-on-their own and strong heroine, but sometimes too much of those traits can be overwhelming. Tess possesses those excessive traits, along with others, in spades; however, I did soften towards her once her full backstory is revealed. I began to understand what drove her to behave as she often did and why she became such an obstinate, headstrong woman. I empathize with Tess's resolve not to follow in her mother's footsteps when it came to men, yet I feel she did go a little overboard. That tendency, going overboard, is a unique quirk in the character's behavior that defines Tess. I do applaud her for being the voice-of-reason when it came to the right motives for marriage, and how she sticks to her convictions no matter how tempting Nick paints the alternative. Tess and Nick are both scarred by events of the past but the baby helps the two to come to terms with their mental demons and push past for a happily ever after.

I admit the secret baby trope is not a particular favorite of mine; however the author, Marilyn Baxter, executed hers with aplomb and expertise. Although the story and plot centers on Tess's pregnancy, I found that it did not bother me as much, yet not enough to change my personal feelings about the trope. The author shows she is either knowledgeable or she done her research thoroughly when it comes to the medical procedures mentioned in the book. Marilyn Baxter does a phenomenal job of capturing the terrible impact Alzheimer has on the patient's friends and family. The stress, the powerlessness, and heartbreak involved when witnessing a loved one's deterioration. It is a situation I am very familiar with, so I easily commiserated with Tess.

PICTURE THIS is a sweet, heartrending story with a positive moral message cleverly woven inside the story. PICTURE THIS shows that people must confront their past first in order to see where their true priorities lie. A stand-alone, the story is well-paced and engaging.

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