Good book. There are six Colton family members: Riley, his two sets of twin sisters, and an adopted brother. There is also a younger foster brother who is the catalyst for the mystery that runs through the series. Riley is the oldest, who at thirteen years old became the surrogate caretaker for his first set of sisters, adding the second set two years later. His parents were socially and politically active and often left Riley in charge of his siblings. After his parents' deaths, he took over raising them. Now, at the age of forty-three, he has no intention of ever being a husband or father. He is done with all of it.
I have to admit that Riley grated on my nerves at the beginning. He seemed to be in a constant state of self-pity over having had to care for his siblings. Yet, they all work together in some way with the family investigation business. There are also frequent scenes of the things he still does to take care of them - preparing snacks for their meetings, having pre-prepared meals in his freezer for any of them to take, etc. He fights and denies that caring nature through most of the book.
As the book opens, Riley is fighting the memories of a one-night stand three months earlier. Unlike other short-term women (he doesn't do relationships, period), he hasn't been able to get Charlize off his mind. Despite that, he doesn't intend her again until fate intervenes. Her aunt is connected to a case he is working on, and on his way to see her, Riley witnesses an attack on Charlize. His protectiveness is aroused in spite of himself, especially once he finds out she is pregnant with his baby.
Charlize is an independent woman who, knowing Riley's feelings, is ready to raise the baby independently. She would rather have Riley involved, both with the baby and her. She fell in love with him immediately but knows that her "fantasyland" isn't likely to come true. However, with the threats against her, she is happy to accept Riley's protection.
I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Riley and Charlize. The connection was there between them from that first night, though Riley tried to deny it, and is still there when they meet again. Riley freaks out at the news of his impending fatherhood though he does accept responsibility. He begins by planning minimum participation for heartbreaking reasons. As they spend time together, Charlize starts to see the caring man beneath the surface that Riley shows the world. I liked seeing Riley's changes, especially over the days that Charlize stayed at his house. But he still can't see the possibilities for a future when the danger is over, and she leaves. A visit from one of his sisters sparks an eye-opening conversation. At the same time, Charlize decides to go after what she wants. I loved the scene at the end, as she reminded him that love is not perfect because life is not perfect.
The suspense of the story was terrific also, with two mysteries. The first is when the Coltons' foster brother, Brody, contacts Riley to say he's in trouble. Brody got involved in a pyramid scheme using borrowed money. Now he's on the hook to pay back the loan, and Brody can't reach anyone in the company. As Riley and the other members of the family investigate, Brody disappears. Riley delves deeper into the ReVitaYou program and discovers disturbing irregularities, combined with a product that makes some people sick. There's a twist at the end that leads into the next book and the continuing search for the ringleader and Brody.
The second mystery is more immediate. As a social worker, Charlize occasionally encounters violent clients. In this case, someone first tries to run her down, which is when Riley gets involved. While she isn't panicked by the attack, Charlize is somewhat concerned. The intensity ramps up when someone takes a shot at her. It was obvious to me who was behind it, but they needed proof. The final confrontation was intense and kept me glued to the pages until it was over.
Colton books are always good for family unity also. Riley is clearly the head of the family, but he also respects the others' thoughts and opinions. After all his years of going on about never being a father, it was funny to see him plotting how to drop the pregnancy bomb on them. I was impressed by their reactions. I'm looking forward to getting to know the rest of them during the other books.