The Child Comes First (Harlequin Super Romance)

The Child Comes First - Elizabeth Ashtree This is a hard one to rate and review. It's somewhere between a two and a three. While there's a number of things the author cuts corners on, it is still an engaging story with a unique premise. I was invested in the story's outcome, but was aware I was reading a novel at all times with plot devices and character shortcuts blandly staring me in the face.Our hero is Simon Montgomery, an ambitious lawyer gunning to make partner at his high-powered Baltimore law firm. When one of the firm's partners leaves a pro bono case he doesn't want to him, Simon finds himself entangled in a murder case - with an eleven-year-old girl as the defendant. As a former foster care child himself, and swayed by the social worker's declaration of the girl's innocence, he agrees to take the case. He knows he's busy, that taking this case will likely harm his career, but he wants to help out a fellow foster child who's been let down by the system.Jayda Kavanagh knows she's too attached to Tiffany, but she knows the girl is innocent and feels guilty that she's part of a system that's let the girl down. Regardless, she's pouring her heart and soul into ensuring Tiffany is acquitted of the second-degree murder of her three-year-old foster brother. Jayda was let down by the adults she trusted as a kid and she's determined to spare Tiffany the same fate.The book unfolds pretty much the way you think it will. Simon grows attached to Tiffany and starts to view his high-powered law career as empty and alienating. His self-centered, mean-spirited, impeccably dressed lawyer friends are trotted out as a contrast to the grounded, giving, au naturel heroine. Hero and heroine fall in love despite wanting to keep a professional distance, thanks in no small part to precious child working the matchmaking magic. Everyone gets what they want, learn life lessons, cue HEA.But, despite the cookie-cutter plot, cardboard cut-out characters and an utter lack of gray areas, it's a compelling story. Jayda's character is probably the best developed, though I'd stop short of saying she has a full character arc. She begins and ends the book as pretty much the same person, but she does work on some residual effects from her past that present a real barrier to a relationship with Simon. So the romantic conflict is fairly well-paced and organic. It's not just Tiffany and the trial keeping them apart. I was interested to see how they'd resolve their issues.It wasn't a bad book, but it was pretty forgettable.