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Instant Daddy by Emily Dalton
(Harl. American #783, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-16783-0
**
It speaks well of Emily Dalton's talent as a writer that I was able to follow her initially perplexing plot line. It's a plot that's ultimately weakened by coincidences and deceptions.

Cassie Montgomery had a one night stand five years ago and now has a four-year-old son. She hasn't seen the father since then and doesn't even know his name. The guy left town the next morning. Looking through a copy of Single Men of Alaska, she sees a photograph of Adam Baranof, her son's father, along with his ad, advertising for a friend. She answers his ad, with the intention of getting to know him before she tells him about his daddy status.

Of all the letters he's received, Adam only responds to Cassie's letter, which is intriguing because he doesn't remember her. Something about this lovely young woman appeals to him, so he takes a chance and invites her to Alaska.

Cassie accepts, but doesn't tell Adam that her father and son will be coming, too, or that they'll be staying in Anchorage while she meets with Adam and decides if she should tell him that he's an Instant Daddy.

They meet, there's immediate chemistry, and yet she's chagrined because he doesn't recognize her. She meets his brother . . . his twin brother . . . a brother who's getting married to a prim and proper woman . . . a woman who won't marry a man who has an illegitimate child.

Now the deception begins.

Adam finds himself between that rock and hard place. If he denies that he's Tyler's father, then he knows that he won't have a chance to win Cassie. Yet if he claims Tyler, a web of deception may spiral out of his control.

When Cassie's father learns that Adam has an identical twin brother, the older man wastes no time in cutting to the bone. "Then how the hell does Cassie know which one of you is Tyler's real father?" Good question.

Cassie also knows that something is wrong but can't pinpoint her unease. She believes Adam but then she begins to sense an undercurrent. There are clues that she's ignoring, refusing to believe that Adam may be lying. When people won't face issues head on and instead let them fester, it's bothersome and certainly doesn't make the storyline flow at a smoother pace.

Adam knows from the very first lie that what he is doing is wrong. He knows that he's ruining any chances with Cassie. He's also angry that his brother, who won't claim any responsibility, is even telling everyone that Adam is the father.

So Adam knows he's wrong to lie. I felt sorry for him, but I still consider him a weak hero. He's given up from Day One on having any kind of meaningful relationship with Cassie. He keeps asking his brother to admit the truth, but the brother is too afraid of his judgmental fiancée and her parents. When Adam chooses to lie to Cassie in order to protect his brother, he sealed his fate with me.

Set in Alaska and Montana, we're given a thumbnail sketch of both. Picturesque descriptions of a setting are fine, but details such as endless descriptions of what Cassie chose to wear and what makeup she applied detracts from my reading. Who cares that she was wearing a pale yellow, fitted pantsuit, gold hoop earrings and a matching bracelet?

My overall concern is that neither of the lead characters is strong enough, believable enough, generous, noble or mature enough to sustain interest. With sex scenes that were tepid and an evil...okay, immature twin brother, nothing was clicking for me. Rather than caring about their relationship, I felt sorry for them. When sadness rather than interest or excitement is the prevailing emotion, then there's a problem.

--Linda Mowery


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