Oh Baby by Pamela Ford
(Harl. Super. #1247, $5.50, G) ISBN 0-373-71247-2
***
Despite a lame title and a premise which one has to just accept, Oh Baby is a nicely written and engaging story. It has some silliness in it, some quirky characters and the small town is wonderful myth, but it is basically a nice romance between two people who are ready for love.

Six years ago, poor waitress Annie McCarthy met Nick Fleming at the all-night diner where she worked, and they became friends. Nick was a lost soul looking for something, mainly adventure. Annie wanted to find someplace to settle down. Nick and Annie married so that Nick could get his inheritance early, with the intention that once received, he and Annie would divorce and go their separate ways. Annie would be $250,000 richer and Nick would be free to find life as an adventure writer. But there was one glitch. Nick's lawyer never filed the divorce papers. So Nick has come to Bedford, Wisconsin, where Annie has purchased and is running a bed and breakfast, to tell her and get her to sign the papers so he can be free to marry in six months.

Annie missed Nick and realized that she wanted to fit into this small town. She also realized she wanted to have kids one day. So, she "invented" a husband who is in the top secret branch of the military and who is never free on leave. She would take a few vacations a year claiming she was going to meet him. And she is four months pregnant, a pregnancy that is the result of artificial insemination. She figured that once the baby is born, she would claim they were divorced and no one would be the wiser. Now Nick has shown up on her doorstep.

To protect her lie, she makes Nick agree to stay for nine days, until the new Museum opening. Annie has played a big role in the new museum, including applying for a grant for them, and wants to stay around long enough to see it through to the end. She assumes that once people know about the lie, they will ostracize her. Another complication pops up when Wisconsin law says no one can get a divorce if the woman is pregnant.

Like I said, this is a bit of a stretch and pretty far fetched. But if you can buy the premise, the rest of the story is quirky, cute and has a nice little romance in store for Annie and Nick. Neither ever really got over the fact that they hit it off so well years ago, and both realize they have missed what they had. Both are still attracted and because they have to play the part of a couple who has been long apart, there are plenty of opportunities for touching, hand holding and kissing.

The other sub plot revolves around a guest at the bed and breakfast who seems awfully interested in Nick and Annie. With the help of Annie's friend Minnow, they try to keep an eye on him and discover what he is up to. The fear is that he has discovered their lie and is going to expose it. Or that he is a developer who wants to buy Annie's land. The title comes from the code word they develop in case any of them discover something – "Oh baby".

There is not a lot to detract from the story. Annie is a woman who has found her niche. She is ready to settle down and excited about the baby. Nick is still looking for something and thinks he may have found it with his fiancée. But the longer he is around Annie, the more he realizes that is not true. Nick helps Annie with her home and tries to convince her to use the beautiful setting for enticing patrons to her B&B. He figures she can offer canoeing and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Both are sure of themselves on the one hand, and looking for their life on the other. It is fun to see them figure it out.

The townspeople are pretty traditional and there is the underlying message about the wonders of small town life. While not distracting, it certainly doesn't cross any new avenues either. The mystery is solved pretty easily and while cute, it's main purpose is to give the characters something to do for those nine days Nick is there.

A nice story and a pleasant romance are wrapped up in Oh Baby and ultimately it is an enjoyable way to relax for a few hours.

--Shirley Lyons


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