The Baby Due Date
by Teresa Carpenter
(Silh. Sp. Ed.1260, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24260-3
***
Considering the explosive growth of the infertility industry and media hype surrounding a few infamous cases of artificial insemination gone awry, it is not surprising that the topic has found its way into a category romance. In The Baby Due Date, new author Teresa Carpenter begins with a mix-up at the appointments desk of an artificial-insemination clinic. When it becomes apparent the pregnancy is a "go," the doctor calls the two people involved and informs each that they have a partner neither expected nor wanted.

Jared Steele (enormously wealthy head of internationally successful construction company) is the caring father-figure in his extended family but unlucky in love. A control freak, Jared opts to hire a surrogate mother, have her impregnated with his sperm, become a single father with a child – but no attachments to the child's mother.

Lisa Langdon has a loudly ticking biological clock. Despite increasing her efforts to find a mate, she cannot find a man with whom she wants to spend her life. An orphan with no extended family, Lisa knows she wants a family and ultimately feels she must use artificial insemination.

When Lisa and Jared find out the clinic's mix-up, after initial and understandable shock, they react predictably. After the first tension, anger-filled meeting, they move on to find out more about the other half of this equation that equals the child each wants. There are very good scenes with developing, though hesitant, sexual attraction as well as each watching the other relate well to children, a surprise to both. (I didn't quite understand the surprise in that considering their connection.)

Lisa is a bookkeeper in an art gallery and has a budding art career. A warm, caring person, Lisa would not have incorporated into her fantasy a wealthy, controlling individual without sensitivity. Jared has no understanding of her wariness of him, though he is perfectly comfortable with his own decade-long war on single women, derived from an ugly experience with a long-ago, two-timing fiancée.

One of the flaws in this book is that this ex-fiancée and a supposed best friend are so dastardly they take on a cartoon quality. Furthermore, it is odd that Jared refuses to become involved with a woman because of a fiancée's betrayal, but trusts everything to his best male buddy, Zack, despite his having been betrayed by best-friend, Nick, too.

A small number of well fleshed-out secondary characters add an interesting dimension to the story. The author treats some issues arising from this delicate "what if" scenario with sensitivity. However, the situation examined under Carpenter's microscope is so fanciful the storyline tends to undermine the seriousness of the subject. There is enough good writing to keep a reader turning pages, but some scenes are too exaggerated, lessening their effectiveness furthering the person-to-person relationships in this book.

The strengths of The Baby Due Date balance its weaknesses. Teresa Carpenter is an author who shows good potential in the genre she has chosen. I look forward to reading another book by her.

--Sue Klock


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