The Baby Magnet by Terry Essig
(Silh. Rom. #1435, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-19435-8
****
Readers will be faced with a ‘bad news, good news' scenario when they see The Baby Magnet on store shelves. The bad news is that the title is icky and in no way indicates the depth and complexity of this story. The good news is that the cover art work is good enough to merit second, third and fourth glances. The best news is that this book is a winner!

The Baby Magnet is Terry Essig's eleventh book and only the second of hers that I've read. House Calls (SR 552), the first one I read, was a hoot. The heroine gets involved with a doctor who has a hard time accepting that one of her main cooking ingredients is soup. He's amazed that she's successful using mushroom soup in all sorts of main dish recipes and is aghast to learn that she's used tomato soup in her spice cake recipe. Welcome to the real world, fella. Um, Um good takes on new meaning to busy women.

I began her latest with anticipation and high hopes. When I finished, I had a big smile on my face and was amazed that Terry Essig isn't more well known. I'm now on a search to find more of her books.

Twenty-three-year-old Marie Ferguson is giving driving lessons to her uncle, fifteen-year-old Jason. Yes, you read that right. Marie's grandfather remarried late in life and now has a son younger than his granddaughter. Gramps is hospitalized, recovering from an injury, which means that Marie has her hands full with this mouthy, driving-is-my-God-given-right teenager.

Well, of course Jason, the teenaged driver from Hell, backs into a car, one driven by her ex-brother-in-law, Luke Deforest. Marie is dismayed to see Luke. When she was married to his brother, Marie had wondered if she'd married the wrong man, but that was a secret that she'd never breathed to a soul. Wouldn't she have been surprised to know that Luke had felt an unspoken desire for her, too?

Luke's car will need major repairs, so Marie and Jason end up taking Luke to get his two-year-old daughter, Carolyn. Her mother is dead and now Luke, who's never met her, is taking custody. As the storyline unfolds and we learn more about this tiny charmer and Luke's connection to her, we realize that we've met a larger-than-life hero. Luke is amazed at how easily Marie deals with his daughter. Incidents that he swears will be the death of him don't seem to faze Marie. When he suggests that Marie help him with baby Carolyn in exchange for him giving Jason driving lessons, the framework is laid for an engaging, complex story that's as light-hearted as it is gentle.

I haven't even begun to reveal some of the bigger plot points, story lines that add complexity and interest, making this a multi-faceted story. There's lots more in store for you. What amazed me was that Ms. Essig was able to give us so much plot diversity considering the word constraints that Silhouette Romances impose. This is one of those times when a category romance shines.

There's a definite line between comedy and slapstick, but Terry Essig never crosses that line. Yes, sometimes the actions are exaggerated, but they never seem to cross that line into farce. Occasionally Luke's burgeoning attempts at being a perfect parent become almost too outlandish, but he's so intent, so earnest in his desire to be a good daddy that it's easy to give him some slack.

I've never made any secret that I prefer lighter stories, stories populated with good people who are trying to deal admirably, honorably and maturely with life's situations. What's wrong with dealing with life in a quirky, rose-colored manner, in approaching problems with good-natured humor? If you agree with me that there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to use humor and gentleness to sand off life's rough edges, then I'm predicting that you'll find The Baby Magnet as delightful as I did.

--Linda Mowery


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