The Pregnancy Surprise
by Caroline Anderson
(Harl. Romance #3826, $4.25, G) ISBN 0-373-03826-7
**
Drug rape is never a nice subject but Anderson uses this as backdrop for The Pregnancy Surprise that actually changes the mother's life for the better. Maisie McDowell went drinking with an old college professor and three months later finds herself pregnant, not seriously ill like she feared. Her new next-door neighbor, Dr. James Sutherland, is just the man to help her come to terms with the baby and all it means.

Maisie goes to see her regular doctor, only to find James there at the clinic. When he tells her she is pregnant, she is floored and together they piece together the tale. The professor slipped something into her drink and had his way with her. All she remembered was drinking too much and feeling slightly ill in the morning. But Maisie, a successful veterinarian in the English countryside, is determined to have this child.

Maisie has a nice little cottage, which was the lodge on the same property as Jamesís manor house. She is able to support herself and although scared, is determined to show this child all the love she has in her heart. Maisie was adopted and both of her adoptive parents have died, leaving her with no family.

James has just moved to the country, getting away from pressure and a relationship that went sour. Maisie is extremely attractive and he finds himself visiting her and helping to take care of things that keep coming up. There are chickens, one of whom is protecting a nest of eggs on his property. There are dogs galore. James helps Maisie with several situations with horses and finds her respects her abilities even as he wants to protect her as a woman.

Neither wants the other to know of their attraction, so the entire story propels itself on the premise that they are just friends, and the few kisses they inadvertently shared don't mean anything. While this is not a bad plot line, it is a rather tedious one. For two smart and caring people, this refusal to discuss or acknowledge their feelings put me off their happiness.

Beyond the mediocre plot premise, I was dismayed that the author chose to use being drugged and raped as the reason for the pregnancy and then just acted like it was a normal occurrence and nothing to be upset about. Anderson did throw in some testing for STD's and did have a scene where Maisie cried and James comforted her. But beyond mentioning that Maisie felt violated, no other mention was made. This lack of reaction and lack of long term effect just didn't ring true for me. Because of that, I had a hard time getting invested in the story.

The Pregnancy Surprise is technically well-written and eventually features a nice romance. However, it has some drawbacks that may put off some readers, like it did me.

--Shirley Lyons


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