Don't Talk To Strangers

Hear No Evil

Whose Little Girl Are You?

P.S. Love You Madly

The Baby Gift by Bethany Campbell
(Harl. Super. #1052, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-373-71052-6
The Baby Gift is a compelling story, with many things good about romance and suspense…but it is with reluctance that I recommend it. The hesitation comes from the first half of the book when I really did not like the heroine or her family and felt emotionally manipulated by the author due to a child’s illness.

Sound complicated? It is. Nealie is the 6-year-old daughter of divorced couple Brianna and Josh Morris. She has a rare disease called Yates anemia. It is incurable except for the slight chance that blood from the umbilical cord of a healthy sibling can replenish whatever is wrong with her blood and make her healthy again. (I know this sounds like science fiction, but the author make it believable!) Brianna decides that she and Josh must have another child to save Nealie.

Josh is a freelance photographer who travels the world on assignment. It is this constant traveling that destroyed their marriage. At the moment, he is in Siberia. Josh has no family except his ex-wife and daughter, was raised in foster homes and has no real understanding of family commitments. He comes willingly and quickly when told that Nealie is sick.

Brianna is his exact opposite. She was born and raised on the farm where she still lives, in a little house near her father’s house and her brother’s house. Together they run a natural method seed farm, selling both the produce they grow and seeds through a thriving mail-order business. It is the family belief that natural ways are the only ways…and distrust anything artificial or scientific. Brianna is the primary brain behind the business, with her brother providing the brawn and her father the ideas. Both seem extraordinarily dependent on her, and she allows it.

Brianna is a martyr. She has planned this elaborate scheme involving artificial insemination with her egg and Josh’s sperm. Her character is disconcerting in many ways. Although she dearly loves her daughter and would do anything for her, she is a wimp with her family. It seems her father has poor health and her brother hates Josh. So she lies to them about everything…Nealie’s illness, Josh’s part in saving her and her feelings for Josh

Her martyrdom is taken too far. How close a family is it that Brianna will not even share this horrifying illness with them for fear it will upset them? Wouldn’t they understand her reason for the need for this scientific solution to her problem? This becomes hard to accept and therefore, it is difficult to believe that Brianna does change as the story develops.

Josh is a great hero. He loves both Brianna and his daughter just as he loves his work. He truly feels he tried to make this marriage work and that his job is no different than other jobs that require travel. He is not perfect. He finally acknowledges that some incidents in the foster homes troubled him more than he cares to admit. This poignant admission is truly endearing.

Brianna’s family plays such a key role in the story and it is hard to like them. Her father Leo uses his illnesses to manipulate Brianna’s actions. Her brother Larry is a sniveling whiner and he really doesn’t change throughout the book.

And why am I even thinking of recommending this book? Compelling writing. It is that simple. Even with all the faults, the story is intriguing. I am a sucker for a child in danger scenario, and this one has no easy solution. The step-by-step process is fascinating. I have no idea if it is medically possible, but it seems plausible. The rebirth of the love between Josh and Brianna is engaging. Their physical interactions are full of sexual tension and build to a rather sudden high point, but are steamy and right for this story. As their love grows, so too does Brianna’s realization that her family is manipulating her. She lets them, which I find disheartening, but at least she knows it now. When she finally stands up for herself, I cheer!

Author Bethany Campbell draws me into the story even with feelings of indifference about the heroine thanks to a first-rate hero and a taut storyline regarding Nealie’s health. Super romance it may not be, but I cautiously recommend The Baby Gift.

--Shirley Lyons

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