When Pia O'Brian's best friend dies, Pia expects to inherit her cherished cat. Instead, the woman leaves Pia three frozen embryos. With a disastrous track record in the romance department and the parenting skills of a hamster, Pia doesn't think she's meant for motherhood. But determined to do the right thing, Pia decides to become a single mother. Only to meet a gorgeous, sexy hunk the very same day.
A former foster-care kid now rich beyond his wildest dreams, Raoul Moreno runs a camp for needy children in Fool's Gold, California. After his last relationship, Raoul thought he was done with women and commitment. Still, he can't get sweet, sexy Pia out of his mind—and proposes a crazy plan. But can such an unconventional beginning really result in the perfect ending?
About the Author
#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our livesfamily, friendship, romance. She's known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.
Read an Excerpt
"What do you mean she left me the embryos? I'm supposed to get the cat." Pia O'Brian paused long enough to put her hand on her chest. The shock of hearing the details of Crystal's will had been enough to stop the strongest of hearts, and Pia's was still bruised from the loss of her friend.
She was relieved to find her heart still beating, although the speed at which her heart was pumping was disconcerting.
"It's the cat," she repeated, speaking as clearly as possible so the well-dressed attorney sitting across from her would understand. "His name is Jake. I'm not really a pet person, but we've made peace with each other. I think he likes me. It's hard to tell—he keeps to himself. I guess most cats do."
Pia thought about offering to bring in the cat so the lawyer could see for herself, but she wasn't sure that would help.
"Crystal would never leave me her babies," Pia added with a whisper. Mostly because it was true. Pia had never had a maternal or nurturing thought in her life. Taking care of the cat had been a big step for her.
"Ms. O'Brian," the attorney said with a brief smile, "Crystal was very clear in her will. She and I spoke several times as her illness progressed. She wanted you to have her embryos. Only you."
"But I…" Pia swallowed.
Embryos. Somewhere in a lab-like facility were frozen test tubes or other containers and inside of them were the potential babies her friend had so longed for.
"I know this is a shock," the lawyer, a fortysomething elegant woman in a tailored suit, said. "Crystal debated telling you what she'd done. Apparently she decided against letting you know in advance."
"Probably because she knew I'd try to talk her out of it," Pia muttered.
"For now, you don't have to do anything. The storage fees are paid for the next three years. There's some paperwork to be filled out, but we can take care of it later."
Pia nodded. "Thank you," she said and rose. A quick glance at her watch told her she was going to have to hurry or she would be late for her ten-thirty appointment back at her office.
"Crystal picked you for a reason," the attorney said as Pia walked toward the door.
Pia gave the older woman a tight smile and headed for the stairs. Seconds later, she was outside, breathing deeply, wondering when the world was going to stop spinning.
This was not happening, she told herself as she started walking. It couldn't be. What had Crystal been thinking? There were dozens of other women she could have left the embryos to. Hundreds, probably. Women who were good with kids, who knew how to bake and comfort and test for a fever with the back of their hands.
Pia couldn't even keep a houseplant alive. She was a lousy hugger. Her last boyfriend had complained she always let go first. Probably because being held too long made her feel trapped. Not exactly a sterling quality for a potential parent.
Her stomach felt more than a little queasy. What had Crystal been thinking and why? Why her? That's what she couldn't get over. The fact that her friend had made such a crazy decision. And without ever mentioning it.
Fool's Gold was the kind of town where everyone knew everyone else and secrets were hard to keep. Apparently Crystal had managed to break with convention and keep some huge information to herself.
Pia reached her office building. The first floor of the structure held several retail businesses—a card store, a gift shop with the most amazing fudge and Morgan's Books. Her office was upstairs.
She went through the plain wooden door off the side street and climbed to the second story. She could see a tall man standing by her locked office door.
"Hi," she called. "Sorry I'm late."
The man turned.
There was a window behind him, so she couldn't see his face, but she knew her schedule for the morning and the name of the man who was her next appointment. Raoul Moreno was tall, with huge shoulders. Despite the unusually cool September day, he hadn't bothered with a coat. Instead he wore a V-neck sweater over dark jeans.
A man's man, she thought unexpectedly. Which made sense. Raoul Moreno was a former professional football player. He'd been a quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys. After ten years in the game, he'd retired on top and had disappeared from public view. Last year he'd shown up in Fool's Gold for a pro-am charity golf tournament. For reasons she couldn't figure out, he'd stayed.
As she got closer, she took in the large dark eyes, the handsome face. There was a scar on his cheek — probably from protecting an old lady during a mugging. He had a reputation for being nice. Pia made it a rule never to trust nice people.
"Ms. O'Brian," he began. "Thanks for seeing me."
She unlocked her office door and motioned for him to go inside.
"Pia, please. My 'Ms. O'Brian' years are looming, but I'm not ready for them yet."
He was good-looking enough that she should have been distracted. Under other circumstances, she probably would have been. But at the moment, she was too busy wondering if the chemo treatments had scrambled Crystal's brain. Her friend had always seemed so rational. Obviously that had been a facade.
Pia motioned to the visitor chair in front of her desk and hung her coat on the rack by the door.
Her office was small but functional. There was a good-size main room with a custom three-year calendar covering most of one wall. The squares were half dry-erase material and half corkboard.
Posters for various Fool's Gold festivals took up the rest of the wall space. She had a storage room and a half bath in the rear, several cabinets and a filing system that bordered on compulsively organized. As a rule she made it a point to visit rather than have people come to her, but scheduling-wise, having Raoul stop by had made the most sense.
Of course that had been before she'd found out she'd been left three very frozen potential children.
She crossed to the small refrigerator in the corner. "I have diet soda and water." She glanced over her shoulder. "You're not the diet type."
One dark eyebrow rose. "Are you asking or telling?"
She smiled. "Am I wrong?"
"I knew it."
She collected a bottle and a can, then returned to her desk. After handing him the bottle, she took a seat and stared at the yellow pad in front of her. There was writing on it, very possibly in English. She could sort of make out individual letters but not words and certainly not sentences.
They were supposed to have a meeting about something. That much was clear. She handled the city festivals in town. There were over a dozen civic events that she ran every year. But her mind didn't go any further than that. When she tried to remember why Raoul was here, she went blank. Her brain was filled with other things.
Babies. Crystal had left her babies. Okay, embryos, but the implication was clear. Crystal wanted her children to be born. Which meant someone was going to have to get them implanted, grow them and later give birth. Although that was terrifying enough, there was also the further horror of raising them.
Children weren't like cats. She knew that much. They would need more than dry food, a bowl of water and a clean litter box. A lot more.
"Oh, God, I can't do this," she whispered.
Raoul frowned. "I don't understand. Do you want to reschedule the meeting?"
Meeting? Oh, right. He was here for something. His camp and he wanted her to…
Her mind went blank, again. Right after the merciful emptiness, there was panic. Deep to the bone, intestine-wrenching panic.
She stood and wrapped her arms around her midsection, breathing hard and fast.
"I can't do this. It's impossible. What was she thinking? She had to know better."
Her visitor rose. She turned to tell him that rescheduling was probably a good idea when the room began to spin. It turned and turned, darkening on the edges.
The next thing she knew, she was in her chair, bent over at the waist, her head between her knees with something pressing down on the back of her neck.
"This is uncomfortable," she said.
"Easier said than done. Let go."
"A couple more breaths."
The pressure on the back of her neck lessened. Slowly, she straightened and blinked.
Raoul Moreno was crouched next to her, his dark eyes cloudy with concern. She took another breath and realized he smelled really good. Clean, but with a hint of something else.
"You all right?" he asked.
"You started to faint." Raoul met her gaze as her eyes widened, and, despite the bigger things crowding her thoughts, she couldn't miss the zing of interest.
She blinked, and shook her head. "I don't faint. I never faint. I—" Her memory returned. "Oh, crap." She covered her face with her hands. "I'm so not ready to be a mother."
Raoul moved with a speed that was a credit to his physical conditioning and nearly comical at the same time.
"Man trouble?" he asked cautiously from a safer few inches away.
"What?" She lowered her hands. "No. I'm not pregnant. That would require sex. Or not. Actually it wouldn't, would it? This is so not happening."
"Okay." He sounded nervous. "Should I call a doctor?"
"No, but you can go if you want. I'm fine."
"You don't look fine."
Now it was her turn to raise her eyebrows. "Are you commenting on my appearance?"
He grinned. "I wouldn't dare."
"That sounded almost critical."
"You know what I meant."
She did. "I'm okay. I've had a bit of a shock. A friend of mine died recently. She was married to a guy in the army. Before he was shipped off to Iraq, they decided to do in vitro, just in case something happened to him. So she could have his kids."
"Sad, but it makes sense."
She nodded. "He was killed a couple of years ago. She took it really hard, but after a while, she decided she would have the babies. At least a part of him would live on, right?"
Pia rose and paced the length of the office. Moving seemed to help. She took a couple of cautious breaths, to make sure she was going to stay conscious. Fainting? Impossible. Yet the world really had started to blur.
She forced herself back to the topic at hand.
"She went to the doctor for a routine physical," she continued. "They discovered she had lymphoma. And not the good kind."
"There's a good kind?"
She shrugged. "There's a kind that can usually be cured. She didn't have that one. And then she was gone. I have her cat. I thought I'd be keeping him. We have a relationship. Sort of. It's hard to tell with a cat."
"They keep to themselves."
There was something about the way he spoke. She glared at him. "Are you making fun of me?"
She saw the corner of his mouth twitch. "Don't mess with me," she told him. "Or I'll talk about my feelings."
"Anything but that."
She returned to her desk and sank into the chair. "She didn't leave me the cat. She left me the embryos. I don't know what to do. I don't know what she was thinking. Babies. God—anyone but me. And I can't ignore it. Them. That's what the attorney hinted at. That I could let it go for a while because the 'fees' are paid for three years." She looked at him. "I guess that's the frozen part. Maybe I should go see them."
"They're embryos. What's there to see?"
"I don't know. Something. Can't they put them under a microscope? Maybe if I saw them, I would understand." She stared at him as if he had the answer. "Why did she think I could raise her children?"
"I'm sorry, Pia. I don't know."
He looked uncomfortable. His gaze lingered on the door. Reality returned and with it, a sense of embarrassment.
"I'm so sorry," she murmured, standing. "We'll reschedule. I'll compose myself and be much better next time. Let me look over my calendar and give you a call."
He reached for the door handle, then paused. "Are you sure you're going to be all right?"
No, she wasn't sure. She wasn't sure of anything. But that wasn't Raoul's problem.
She forced a smile. "I'm great. Seriously, you should go. I'm going to call a couple of girlfriends and let them talk me down."
"Okay." He hesitated. "You have my number?"
"Uh-huh." She wasn't sure if she did, but she was determined to let him escape while she still had a shred of dignity. "The next time you see me, I'll be professionalism personified. I swear."
"Thanks. You take care."
When the door closed, she sank back into her chair. After lowering her arms to the desk, she rested her head on them and did her best to keep breathing.
Crystal had left her the embryos. There were only two questions that mattered. Why, and what the hell was Pia supposed to do now?
Raoul arrived at Ronan Elementary shortly before two. He parked in the lot by the playground. No surprise—his was the only Ferrari in the parking lot. He was a guy who liked his toys, so sue him.
Before he could climb out of the car, his cell phone rang. He checked his watch—he had a few minutes before he was due inside—then the phone number on the screen. As he pushed the talk button, he grinned.
"Hey, yourself," Hawk, his former high school football coach, said. "Nicole hasn't heard from you in a while and I'm calling to find out why."
Raoul laughed. "I talked to your beautiful wife last week, so I know that's not why you're calling."
"You got me. I'm checking on you. Making sure you're moving on with your life."
That was Hawk, Raoul thought with equal parts frustration and appreciation. Cutting right to the heart of what was wrong.
"You had some bad stuff happen," the older man continued. "Don't wallow."
"I'm not wallowing. I'm busy."
"You're in your head too much. I know you. Find a cause. Get personally involved in your new town. It'll distract you. You can't change what happened."
Raoul's good humor faded. Hawk was right about that. The past couldn't be undone. Those who were gone stayed gone. No amount of bargaining, no sum of money, made it better.
"I can't let it go," he admitted.
"You'll have to. Maybe not today, but soon. Believe in the possibility of healing, Raoul. Open yourself up to other people."
It seemed impossible, but he'd been trusting Hawk for nearly twenty years. "I'll do my best."
"Good. Call Nicole."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a great read! one of my fav series. really enjoyed it. It was very easy for me to connect to the characters
Pia O'Brien is taken aback when she learns what she "inherited" from her late best friend Crystal Westland; three embryos from Crystal and her deceased husband Keith who died in Iraq. Stunned Pia knows how much Crystal wanted children but she can't raise plants so wonders why her. Still she decides to honor her friend by bringing one of the embryos to term. Retired professional football player Raoul Moreno has settled down in Fool's Gold, California. He plans to set up a camp for kids. When Raoul meets a still shocked Pia, he offers to help her with her planned pregnancy as he conceals his link to Keith. Neither Pia nor Raoul expected an attraction that soon leads to love. The third Fool's Gold "Perfect" contemporary romance (see Almost Perfect and Chasing Perfect) is an entertaining tale mostly due to the lead female protagonist. Pia is terrific as a commitment phobic who has always been popular, but cannot see herself as a mother. While she struggles with Crystal's legacy, she inconveniently falls in love with former Cowboy quarterback Raoul who takes her heart (and the rest of her body) into the end zone. Readers will enjoy this sweet entry as love comes in many ways. Harriet Klausner
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is the book that will make you fall in love with fool's gold. Great plot, good writing and a story that will keep you entertained.
Finding Perfect Book 3 in Susan Mallery's Fools Gold series was the perfect romance and perfect beach read. Such an interesting love story about taking a chance on love and happiness and what lengths each character would go to please a friend. Plus again I was reminded of the wonderful secondary characters which inhabited Fools Gold, a small town with a huge heart. A town that took care of their own and were fierce about those they loved. From the first book in the series we were introduced to Pia who grew up in Fools Gold. She was rich, popular and as she stated in each book the "mean girl" until she suffered the suicide death of her father and the retreat of her mother leaving her behind to graduate from high school, never to be heard from again. Pia was the town's events planner and worked for their wonderful mayor. She was very good at her job, had a ton of friends, old and new and one special friend had recently passed away from cancer. At the reading of the will, Pia faced a shock. Instead of inheriting her friend's cat, she inherited her friend's embryos. In earlier books one learned that Crystal had harvested her embryos because her husband was a soldier and she wanted to make sure she could have his children. As fate would have it, her husband died and then the worst thing happened, Crystal had cancer and passed away. If you read Mallery's Sweet Spot Sisters series, you were introduced to Raoul Moreno who relocated to Fools Gold and was a retired Dallas Cowboy football player. Like Pia, Raoul was not only honorable; he was loyal and respectful due to his old friend and mentor "Coach" or Hawk as he called him. He owed Hawk and his friend gave him good advice, Hawk told him to get involved in his new town and get a cause. When Raoul learned from Pia about her situation when they had a scheduled meeting, he could understand her loyalty to Crystal because he felt the same way about Hawk. So Pia and Raoul's friendship developed, he listened and she talked. And then events unfolded in Fools Gold a fire, a young boy having family difficulties and Pia decided to have Crystal's babies. Like all of Susan Mallery's books, Finding Perfect was about love, honesty, loyalty and more. It was also about how two very similar people who had overcome so much hurt and anguish from their past childhoods could honestly become friends and be there for each other. Raoul offered to be her "pregnancy buddy" and the entire town offered her assistance as well. Just like in the other books in this series, Fools Gold's town folks helped their own! Raoul admired Pia's decision to have the babies and he took his job of caring for her seriously. So seriously, that their friendship grew to be more and in the end he wanted to marry Pia. Reading Pia's and Rauol's story sincerely tugged at my heartstrings. They had both endured so much heart ache during their youth and to live in this marvelous community who loved them and wanted to pitch in, took my breath away. Pia was amazing, to actually be selfless and have Crystal and Kent's babies. Then there was Raoul who gave so much to the community, the youth of Fools Gold and to Pia herself. But could he give her his love, all he was, forget his past marriage and risk his heart? Finding Perfect was all about the emotion and the love of the town. It was also about now both Pia and Raoul had become better people. And you'll adore reading about the ladies of Fools Gold and how they scold Raoul, how Raoul re
Loved the series. You should read all of the books
While the plot is still improbable (the heroine has been left 3 embroyos in her friend's will), the characters are appealing and I enjoyed this book much more than the first book in the series.
I liked this 3rd book the best. Story line unique. 3 embryos from dead best friend. quarterback Raoul Moreno, former foster care kid moves to fool's gold. pia former rich, mean girl, has lived there all her life. dad dies and mom leaves her there as a sr in high school. cute story, loved the ending. library book
Pia O¿Brian is still grieving over the losing her best friend Crystal to cancer. She is shocked to learn that Crystal didn¿t leave her the cat as planned, but her frozen embryo. What is a single girl to do with a bunch of frozen embryos? To make things more difficult, here come the sexy and sweet ex-NFL player Raoul Moreno. Can Pia handle balance being a single mother? Can she handle being just friends with Raoul?Pia was the popular girl who had everything, that was until her parents died when she was still in high school. She lost everything, and had to rebuild her live in Fool¿s Gold. She became a totally different person. She grew leaps and bounds emotionally. It takes a special kind of person to have the children you best friends was never allowed to have.I read Susan Mallery¿s Sweet Spot a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with Raoul. He was this sweet, sensitive teen who just wanted a family to belong to. He found all that and more. Now Raoul is all grown up, and he¿s lost none of his charm. He has only one big character flaw: He wants to do the right thing all the time, but he doesn¿t always go about it in the best way. He see starts to see Pia and her embryo¿s as his family. He wants to help her and her children. They just don¿t make them like Raoul, cause if they did I¿d snatch him right up.This book is my favorite of the Fool¿s Gold series! It¿s a very sweet and uplifting story. It¿s a story of learning to trust and love someone. I¿ve said it once, and I¿ll say it again, Susan Mallery is my favorite reading guilty pleasure! When she releases a new series, I run right out to purchase it. This series was no different. I enjoyed this series as a whole, and would really recommend this book for anyone looking for a very sweet contemporary romance. I¿m hoping that this isn¿t the end of the series, because I would love to see some of the lose ends tied up. I really do love this town! If you enjoyed Raoul, I would also recommend picking up Susan Mallery¿s Sweet Spot Series.
If you can overlook some of the more unlikely scenarios in this novel, it's a sweet romance with an unusual premise. Pia's closest friend has passed away after a battle with cancer, and Pia has not inherited her cat as expected, but instead Crystal's three frozen and fertilised embryo's. Pia's agonising over the decision she now faces has some authenticity, though really it is never in doubt what she will choose to do. New to the town, Raoul by amazing coincidence, met Crystal's late husband in Afghanistan, and feeling partially responsible for his death, offers to support Pia through her pregnancy. Though unrealistic, it's a unique start to their burgeoning romance. Pia is sufficiently complex to be interesting and likeable. I liked Raoul too, yet his characterisation is awkward. I can see that Mallery tries to justify Raoul's contradictions between his emotions and his actions, but it didn't quite resolve for me. What I don't think was handled well were the realities of IVF. Too many women have had some sort of relationship to the process to be fobbed off with this more romantic view. Mallery has tried to justify the events with optimistic possibilities, but it doesn't work because the reality for most is so different, except in terms of the storyline.What I did appreciate is that Mallery writes with warmth and heart about her characters and the town. I did enjoy the story and would happily read more by the author. Finding Perfect is a thoroughly contemporary romance novel, with an unusual premise for the romantic at heart.
Another in a nice, contemporary romance sereis.
Another great series by Susan Mallery. Finding perfect is my favorite book in this series. Thanks to Susan Mallery I now have a dream of living in a small town. I am ready to pack my bags and head on over to Fool's Gold. In Finding Perfect you learn about the towns former bad girl Pia and her past. You meet Raoul, a football player who moves to Fool's Gold to start over. When Pia and Raoul cross paths immediately there is chemistry between the two. They both have a past and are both trying to not let it bring them down and destroy who they are today. Pia is under a lot of stress and has to make a very big decision about something that can change her life completely. Raoul who is just drawn to Pia, decides he will help her out and stand by her side no matter what.There were so many things about Pia that reminded me of myself. She was very sarcastic, had a great sense of humor, and did not really let anything get to her. She accepted the way her life was and everything shes done for herself. And talk about finding the perfect man, Raoul is everything a woman can dream for. He truly was perfect in every way. Susan, gives you a very strong & emotional story and very believable. The ending made me cry, but they were GOOD tears. A great beginning and great ending. This series really is "The Land of Happy Endings..." A great series and a must read!
Fun, better than average romance.
MY HEART! Can I just say that I was captured from when I opened the cover of the book. Seeing Pia lose one of the triplets was oh my God! SO DAMN SCARY AND HEART WRENCHING! I was taken on the ride of my life constantly clutching my chest. It was so good. I would have have continued reading this song even if it was 100 chapters long. I cannot explain or express strongly enough how much YOU NEED TO PICK UP THIS BOOK AND READ IT. You will not be disappointed. Ended up marrying a pro football player, had twins and lives happily and in love with a partner who only was nothing more than a pregnancy buddy. Lol!
Very predictable. Dragged on for 200 pages then ended without a marriage and birth of twins. Also 30 pages of advertising to get you hooked on buying more. All books I have read in this series had similar endings. Sorry, I have had enough. Will not buy another.
Ok, I’ll admit it. Mallery had me crying crocodile tears with this one. This is definitely the most emotional novel in the series to date. She tackles so many touchy subjects from cancer to foster children to not-so-natural disasters in a manner that makes you realise that they really are part of everyday life. I really like how Mallery jogs our memory about past stories. When the characters from previous novels come up in a pertinent way she quickly gives the key points of their stories and then moves on, just enough to remind you who’s who in Fool’s Gold. I loved Pia more than I ever thought I would. I knew her before & well after this novel, but right now she's unforgettable & unstoppable. And she grows a backbone. She also becomes easier to understand as more of her background & personality comes to light. I was completely floored as to how Mallery pulled it all off. Raoul's droolworthyness is definitely helping the story out as well. Seeing him reckoncile who he is with what he believes was quite enlightening. All the while, Mallery treats readers to a fantastic budding romance that makes you want to move to Fool’s Gold. I do feel like this is the most emotional novel in the series, to date anyways. I loved every aspect of it and wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend it to others, or to re-read it again & again.
I really enjoyed this book! Raoul is looking for a family without risking his heart. Little does he know, Pia has other plans for him. I really liked how Pia didn't settle for anything less than what she wanted. I can't wait to hear more about their story in the next book. :)