Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review:The Rock Star's Secret Baby (Ballybeg Bad Boys #2) by Zara Keane

THE ROCK STAR'S SECRET BABY is out now! This is Muireann's story (pronounced Murr-in or Mwurr-in) and we find out what happened to her after she split up with Gavin in LOVE AND SHENANIGANS.

He'd rocked her world…
Muireann Byrne had it all: money, fiancé, social standing. Now she's a penniless single mother who's determined to get her life back on track. When desperation drives her to accept a housekeeping position on a remote island, she's horrified to discover that her sexy boss is the man who got her pregnant.

…She's about to blow up his life.
Darko Dunne has it all: wealth, fame, success. So why does he feel empty inside? When a beautiful former fling blasts back into his life as his new housekeeper, the jaded rock star's peaceful seclusion on a private island comes to an explosive end.

Faced with a band of ruthless criminals and a ticking clock, Darko and Muireann must pool their resources to rescue the baby he never knew he had. Can they save their son before it's too late?
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Muireann Byrne had spent much of the last year imagining a triumphant return to Ballybeg. A pink sports car featured prominently in the fantasy. In her dream, she zoomed into town wearing the latest designer clothes, complemented by the season’s must-have handbag and accessories. Sunlight was glinting off her newly highlighted hair. A hint of her flat abs was revealed by a hip-hugging miniskirt, and her toned upper arms were displayed to advantage by a spaghetti-strap top.


Reality sliced through the movie reel playing in her head. The sound of retching was followed by the acrid stench of baby vomit, which in turn was followed by a loud belch.

Feck. Not again. That was, what, the fourth time since they’d left Lisdoonvarna? “Hold on, little guy.”

On a country lane that narrow, the only place to pull over was the edge of the ditch. With the windshield wipers working overtime, Muireann maneuvered her wreck of a car to the side of the road. Then she heaved herself into the back, where her baby was playing in his car seat, seemingly indifferent to his pukey state.

“Come here, you rascal.” After using a mountain of wet wipes, she’d cleaned his adorable chubby face and replaced his soiled bib with a fresh one. “What am I going to do with you, hmm? Car travel doesn’t agree with your tummy, but we still have a few kilometers to go until we reach Ballybeg.”

James-David beamed at her, all rosy cheeks and drool. “Mama,” he said with delight, then repeated it with emphasis. “Ma. Ma.”

And just like that, her irritation melted, lost in the wonder of contemplating the tiny human who was her son. “That’s right, sweetheart. I’m your mama.”

She dropped a kiss onto his forehead and blew a raspberry. The baby squealed with joy and grabbed a fistful of hair out of her ponytail. Ah, well. It had been so long since she’d been to the hairdresser, she figured James-David couldn’t make her hair look any worse than it already did. A home hair color had transformed her natural mousy hair to a rich copper, and she was still getting used to the transformation.

“Okay, little guy.” She untangled her hair from his fist. “I need to get back in the front now. Promise me that was the last time you’ll get sick until we reach Aunt Bridie’s house. I’ve run out of clean bibs for you.”

James-David appeared to consider her request for a moment, pursing his rosebud lips. Then he blew a bubble and laughed.

So much for that. Grinning, Muireann clambered into the driver’s seat, trying to ignore the wobble of the couple of extra kilos she still needed to lose from her midriff. Squeezing into her outfit had been a challenge, but no way was she showing up in Ballybeg wearing charity shop clothes. Making a good impression was essential—especially given how people felt about her family after her father’s financial shenanigans.

Her stomach churned, and she swallowed past the lump in her throat. The thought of leaving James-David during the week was gut wrenching, but if she were to stand a chance of reopening her interior design business and building a solid future for her son, she needed capital. And capital required patience and savings. The housekeeping job she’d accepted on Inish Glas wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was only for a few months.

She turned the key in the ignition. The car wheezed and cut out. Her stomach lurched. Oh hell, no. She was five kilometers from the nearest garage. The car could not crap out on her.

Another turn of the ignition, and still nothing. She reached for her handbag and her mobile phone, and then she remembered. Feck and double feck. The phone company had disconnected her number after she hadn’t paid the bill two months in a row. Groaning, she put her head on the steering wheel.

“Okay,” she said aloud, “I can do this. I can get this car to start.” She flexed her fingers and took a deep breath. After another couple of tries, the car spluttered into life. Muireann eased it back onto the road and accelerated.

Ping. Ping. Ping.

One by one, a series of warning lights flashed on the dashboard. The tension in her shoulders increased, making her weak neck ache. Four months after slipping a disc in her upper spine, the pain was just about bearable, but liable to flare up at the slightest provocation. Seeing her rust bucket of a car falling apart before her eyes definitely qualified as a stress factor.

Another warning danced on the dashboard. Feck. She’d need to dig out the manual and check which vital part of the car was malfunctioning. At this rate, the whole vehicle would fall apart before she reached the outskirts of town.

“Stupid fecking car,” she muttered. “I forked out the last of my savings to buy you. The least you could do is get me all the way to Ballybeg.”

“Feck,” James-David said in a singsong voice from the backseat. “Feckin’ car.”

“Don’t say bad words, baby. Mama is a terrible influence.” Smiling despite herself, she increased the pressure on the gas pedal, but the vehicle merely chugged along at a snail’s pace. “Come on,” she urged, “just another couple of kilometers.”

At the sound of screeching brakes, she jerked her gaze to the rearview mirror.
A red sports car hugged her bumper, flashing its lights in an impatient manner. Through the tinted windscreen, she couldn’t see the driver, but the whole aggressive lights and beeping horn business screamed testosterone.

“Typical man. They drive with their dicks. Can’t he see I’m having problems? Wouldn’t a gentleman stop to see if I needed help?”

“Dick. Dick,” sang James-David.

The sports car’s driver sounded the horn again, revving the engine for maximum intimidation. Clearly, helping a damsel in distress was not on his to-do list.

Crap. She pressed down on the accelerator but barely brought the speedometer over fifteen kilometers per hour. She was reluctant to pull over a second time in case she couldn’t get the damn thing moving again, but that eejit was leaving her no choice.

Exhaling a groan, she pulled over at the next opportunity, leaving the engine running.

The sports car overtook her, sitting on his horn.

She flipped him the finger. Honestly. What an arsehole.

Shaking with anger, she pulled back out onto the road and pressed down on the accelerator. An ominous hiss sounded, and plumes of smoke coiled out from beneath the hood of the car. “Oh, feck.”

Yet more warning lights pinged on the dashboard.

Muireann pulled over to the edge of the ditch and slammed her fist against the steering wheel. “No. No, no, no.”

Hot tears coursed down her cheeks. She’d have to walk through the rain to the nearest garage, carrying James-David and his car seat. She’d sold his buggy two days ago. It was an expensive model and had been a gift from her mother when her parents still had money. She’d received enough cash to cover what she owed her landlady and fill the petrol tank for today’s trip. So much for making a fiscally responsible decision.

“Okay, little guy. We’re going to get into our rain gear and I’ll put you in your carrier. Sound good?”

“Good-good.” Everything sounded good to James-David.

Outside, the dark clouds and heavy rain made it easy to forget it was morning.
Muireann opened the back of the car and located the baby carrier. By the time she’d wrestled James-David into it and attached the hood to keep him dry, she was already soaked to the skin. Her bad back made carrying anything more than a couple of kilos a trial. Although Aunt Bridie had found a used buggy to replace the one Muireann had sold, it was at her aunt’s house. And to get there, she had to somehow flag down a passing car or trudge to the garage and call Bridie to collect them.

The going was wet, muddy, and bitterly cold. Two vehicles passed her on the road—a car, too busy breaking the speed limit to notice a rain-sodden woman hauling a baby, and a tractor whose driver had the audacity to give her a friendly wave when he passed.

“Mama.” James-David, warm and dry in the carrier, was enjoying their forced march. His mother was not. Just in case being stripped of her home, possessions, and dignity wasn’t sufficient humiliation, she would be returning to her hometown wet, bedraggled, and down to her last twenty euros.

If only that fool in the sports car hadn’t forced her to pull over. She might have made it to the garage, albeit at a slow pace. She might at that very moment be enjoying a warm cup of tea while Billy Driscoll fixed her car.

After twenty minutes of mud-soaked trudging, Muireann paused in front of a redbrick building to catch her breath. “That’s my old primary school.” She pointed out the playground swings. “Maybe you’ll go there in a few years. And there across the road is the house we lived in before my father bought Clonmore House.”

A lump formed in her throat when she regarded the smart but modest four-bedroom house. They’d been happy in those days, her and her parents. Once they’d moved into the big house, the fragile threads that had held their family together had begun to unravel. She adjusted the straps of the baby carrier to reduce pressure on her already aching neck. Whatever happened, she wouldn’t quit on her son—not emotionally, not physically, not any which way.

In another couple of minutes, Driscoll’s garage came into view. After checking for traffic, Muireann hurried across the road and jogged the last few meters.

And stopped short.

The red sports car was parked carelessly in front of the garage. A tall man paced before the car, lithe as a panther. The hood of his raincoat was pulled tight. He had a mobile phone pressed to his ear. Although she was too far away to hear what he was saying, the man’s jerky hand gestures and impatient movements gave the impression he was displeased.

Anger burned in her chest like acid. “I’ll give him something to be pissed off about,” she muttered and marched over to the architect of her present predicament. “You—” Muireann jabbed a finger at Mr. Cool, “—are a wanker.”

“Anker,” James-David repeated contentedly from the comfort of his mother’s warm chest.

The man spun to face her. His eyebrows arched over a pair of oddly ill-fitting sunglasses. Between his sunglasses and his tightly fastened hood, it was difficult to tell what he looked like beyond the lightly tanned skin, chiseled cheekbones, and bearded jaw. “Excuse me? Have I just been called a wanker by a complete stranger and an infant?”

Muireann’s cheeks burned when he took in her dripping raincoat and her mud-caked shoes. “If you hadn’t forced me to pull over, my car wouldn’t have stalled, and I wouldn’t have had to haul arse through mud and rain to find a garage.”

“You’re the driver of that wreck I overtook a few kilometers back?”

His voice was deep and rich and familiar. A pang of longing and regret hit her in the solar plexus. Except for his obnoxious personality and facial hair, he reminded her of James-David’s father. Bittersweet memories of their sun-and-cocktail-drenched holiday fling filled her mind. She shuttered them and focused on giving the man in front of her a right bollocking.

“That wreck was my only mode of transportation. Thanks to you, I’ve had to carry my baby all the way here, plus lug his car seat and changing bag.”

“Sorry, lady,” he said, sounding not the least contrite, “but that vehicle isn’t roadworthy. You shouldn’t be driving your kid around in a car held together by rust and nails.”

“Not everyone can afford a Ferrari.”

The car’s owner winced. “It’s a Porsche,” he said with emphasis. “Custom made.”

“Whatever. A sports car is a sports car.” She crossed her arms, ignoring James-David’s delighted wriggling. “A gentleman would have noticed I was in trouble and stopped to help.”

“I’m not clairvoyant,” he said with a touch of impatience, “and I was in a rush. Had I known you were having car trouble, I’d have stopped.”

Muireann snorted. “In a rush? You were driving like a maniac. Do you want to kill someone?”

A muscle in the man’s cheek twitched. Even hidden behind weird sunglasses, he was handsome. High cheekbones, chiseled jaw, just enough facial scruff to look casually rough but not unkempt. “My GPS thinks this is a police station, but all I found is a construction site.” He gestured to the half-built structure to the left of Driscoll’s Garage.

“They’re rebuilding Ballybeg Garda Station. In the meantime, they’re in a temporary building.”

The man swore beneath his breath. “Any idea where?”

She shrugged. “I’m useless with directions. They won’t mean much to you unless you’re familiar with Ballybeg.”

“You could show me, though?” He scratched his beard thoughtfully. “Here’s the deal. I’ll drop you and your kid off wherever you want to go if you help me get to the police station.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m not keen on getting into a car with a lunatic. You seem to think you’re a race car driver.”

That elicited a laugh. “No. I’m a musician in a hurry.”

“A…musician?” The horror of realization formed a ball of acid in her stomach the instant he whipped off his shades to reveal a pair of piercing green eyes.

The man wasn’t just familiar. She knew him. He was the backpacker who’d knocked her up in Australia twenty-seven months ago.

What I thought about The Rock Star's Secret Baby

I've been wondering what happened to
Muireann since she her engagement to Gavin imploded at the altar in Love and Shenanigans and The Rock Star's Secret Baby did not disappoint me. (Don't you just love that title?)

Muireann returns to Ballybeg with her new son in tow, a bad family reputation and not very much money to her name. But she's spunky and dedicated to her child and has taken a housekeeping appointment on an island off the coast.  When her babysitter leaves her in the lurch, she has to bring her son with her to her new live-in job.

Aware that her new employer is both her son's father and a rock star hiding away from the public, Muireann is open to leaving or staying, depending on how Darko Dunne (aka Damian, as Muireann knows him) handles the news of the outcome of their torrid two day affair in Australia.

I don't want to spoil anything for you here, but I loved Darko's reaction to James-David, and when a mystery on the island threatens to harm the people he cares about, he isn't afraid to take action.  I really liked the interactions between Muireann and Darko, and the unlawful activities on the island give a nice bit of spice to the story.

I love my little trips to the fictional town of Ballybeg and although this story doesn't focus so much on the little Irish community, it still had the flavor of what I love about Zara Keane's two series set in this locale. This book is the second in the Ballybeg Bad Boys series, and I'm looking forward to more. 

ARC provided for review.

About the Author

Zara Keane grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but spent her summers in a small town very similar to the fictional Ballybeg.

She currently lives in Switzerland with her family. When she’s not writing or wrestling small people, she drinks far too much coffee, and tries – with occasional success – to resist the siren call of Swiss chocolate.

To listen to her talking about the Ballybeg series and her plans for future books, check out the Audio Files page.

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