The Restless Heart - Tami Hoag
The Restless Heart is a Loveswept category romance from 1991 and features the Remy Doucet, the brother of "Lucky's Lady's" Etienne "Lucky" Doucet. I admit I bought this because after reading "Lucky's Lady," I wanted to read more about the Doucets.

Generally, I shy away from categories because I find they are much too short for any real character or plot development and because, these days, most of them feature billionaires or princes. Also there's this boilerplate feel to them as if names and occupations were changed with the rest of each and every book exactly the same. It's ironic that Harlequin and Silhouette were what drew me to romances first, but now they are the ones I can't seem to enjoy anymore. At any rate, I was pleased that there wasn't a billionaire/prince/king-to-be hero to be found in The Restless Heart.

Danielle Hamilton has been volunteered/drafted into babysitting her sister's five "little monsters" while her sister and brother-in-law go away for several weeks for a second honeymoon. The little monsters range from 10 months to 11 years old, and come equipped with all the attendant problems/challenges for their ages. Eudora at 10 months is the baby who spits up everything and cries a lot. Of course, there's the diapers to change, etc. Four-year old Ambrose seems to have an obsession with costumes and masks - Ronald Reagan mask paired with Spiderman pj's for example - as well as mysterious dogs, real and stuffed, that show up and then ...disappear. Tinks, who's seven, ends up hanging by her feet from places like the roof a lot thanks to 9-year old Jeremy and seems to be in training as a demolition expert. (She blew up the macaroni surprise casserole with a firecracker.) Jeremy seems to be heading toward America's Most Wanted while Dahlia is eleven going on 25 and wants a red lace bustier like Madonna.

Danielle is a world-traveling renowned photographer who has zippity-do-dah experience in child care. So saying she is in way over her head is definitely an understatement. Add to this, there was an "incident" in her recent past which resulted in Danielle fleeing to Tibet for a year and trying to come to terms with her maternal inadequacies generally and a perplexing fear of babies in particular. Enter Remy Doucet, an unemployed geologist, who on a bet with his younger sister, Annick, is determined to prove he can be as good a nanny as any of the women employed by Giselle's (his twin sister) agency.

While this book is very different from "Lucky's Lady" and understandably so, I still very much enjoyed the way Remy and Danielle drew sparks from each other with their dialogue and their chemistry. Remy is so laid back and imperturbable in the face of dirty diapers or exploding macaroni. He is clearly at ease around kids and takes all the various disasters and temperaments in stride whereas Danielle is constantly ruffled, exhausted and worried about doing the wrong thing. I liked that Remy helped Danielle grow accustomed to the five "monsters" and as she relaxed, watching how she grew to like them and genuinely enjoy being with them. What had seemed to be an ordeal at first becomes an unexpected pleasure. Honestly, some of the funniest parts involved Remy and the children - hosing oatmeal off Eudora with the sprayer in the kitchen sink and the hi jinks the kids get into at the zoo to name two.

Generally, Remy is sweet and sexy without too much chest thumping usually seen in early category romances. I had some minor quibbles a couple of times when one aspect of his character seemed to have been added as an afterthought to reflect how some men of the time were struggling to reconcile changing female roles in the 90's rather than an integral characteristic of Remy. (Women were entering professions previously dominated by men, and some men began venturing into occupations that were considered female dominated ) For example I felt the bet with his sister that he could be as good a nanny as any female was a little contrived. His strident and erroneous assumption that Danielle's reluctance to hire him was because he lacked "breasts" was also a bit jarring.

Without getting into spoiler territory, I felt the resolution was a little disappointing. I loved that Remy followed Danielle to Madagascar and admitted "home" is where she is, but I couldn't help wishing that their future relationship would be less traditional. The take-home message seemed to emphasize the more traditional female roles of home and hearth and diminish Danielle's successful career. But again, I assume that needs to be mitigated by the guidelines/constraints of category romance of the time.

Despite a few minor problems, I really liked the Cajun setting, and the children as characters were fun and never approached that too-sweet plot moppet phase. Having Danielle being older than Remy and approaching the big 4-0 was also different and written with a comic feel without obsessing over the age difference in an overly dramatic way. I have said that "The Restless Heart" is different from "Lucky's Lady", and it is. One is straight romance (The Restless Heart) and one is romance with elements of suspense (Lucky's Lady). Having said that, "The Restless Heart" is a terrific category romance that reminds me why I used to gobble each and every one I could get my hands on years ago.