Baby Makes Three by Daphne Atkeson
(Precious Gem, $1.96, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6945-6
***
Baby Makes Three pairs two unlikely lovers, your garden variety ‘opposites attract' couple. She's uptight and basically anal-retentive while he lives life moment to moment. Better still, they know they're different. She thinks he's a financial flake; he's sure that she sleeps with a day-timer under her pillow.

Zoe Balboa finally has the job she's wanted after years of studying. She's been given a temporary job as an elementary vice principal and if she has a good year, then it will turn into a full-time position. With debts to pay off, Zoe's looking for a cheap place to stay. Acting on a friend's suggestion, Zoe meets with Alex Masters, thinking that he needs money. She'll move into his home, pay him rent and both their problems will be solved.

Not by a long shot.

The title comes into play when one of Zoe's ex-students leaves a baby in Zoe's care. Zoe's never been around infants and is totally terrified that she'll do everything wrong. In a role reversal Alex comes to her rescue time and again. Alex, seeing Zoe hold the baby, begins to look at her in a more understanding light. But when she's not holding the baby he's as confused as ever about this woman who's catching his interest.

Baby Makes Three is an easy read and really does have a sparkling resolution. Early on I knew I had to suspend disbelief when I read this sentence, one that sent me into gales of laughter and threw me off course. "By May, after she'd proved she was perfect for the job, she'd take her first giant step toward her prestigious, highly paid future." Assistant principals and highly paid don't belong in the same sentence, but I just wrote that off as artistic license. What gnawed at me was how uptight, how rigid Zoe is. Alec nails it when he compares her to a drill sergeant who can't have fun unless she schedules it on a calendar.

Here's a good example of how uptight Zoe is. She and Alec are discussing parenthood, when she becomes stiff and ‘preachy.' "That's a long way off-after I get my career set and find the right man. Then when we're emotionally bonded, financially established, living near a good school, have savings for the baby's college, and are really ready for the commitment and responsibility, then . . . " Zoe is as colorless and as humorless as any character I've met in a while. She's basically boring, somebody that I'd avoid like fleas in real life.

Perhaps if Baby Makes Three had been longer, then I really do think that Ms. Atkeson could have convinced me that Zoe did change from an automaton to a loving woman. She was so unhappy and unsure for so much of the story. As it was, there just wasn't enough time to believe that love had transformed Zoe.

What kept me reading was Alec, who really is rock solid. Most people might have given up on Zoe, but Alec sees below the surface to the woman who's afraid to let herself have fun. Ms. Atkeson writes a good story. If there had been more balance or if Zoe had softened up earlier, then it would have been easy to recommend Baby Makes Three. I'm going to remember Daphne Atkeson. Her writing shows promise.

--Linda Mowery


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