Compulsion

Pray Love, Remember

Traveler

Untamed Angel

 
Maybe Baby by Elaine Fox
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-81783-7
***
Oh, what a tangled web we weave...well, you know the rest. This old adage is the theme of Maybe Baby. While it’s meant to be a humorous look at how one small lie told in a moment of panic mushrooms into an unmanageable mess, I found the reading experience more distressing than comical.

Delaney Poole is on a mini-vacation in Harp Cove, the tiny Maine town where she will begin her medical practice after finishing her grueling final year of residency in a Washington, D.C. area hospital. While vacationing, she throws caution to the wind and has a one-night stand with a fellow vacationer from Cape Cod. A good-looking Lothario named Jack. Sailboat Jack, as she refers to him, since she doesn’t know his last name, but she does know he owns a boat.

As you may have guessed by the title, the condom Jack used was defective and Delaney finds herself pregnant. She decides to have the baby and makes a feeble attempt to locate the father, but since she doesn’t know his last name, she doesn’t have much luck. And, quite frankly, she really doesn’t want to find him. Why? Because it was readily apparent to Delaney, even during the brief time they spent together, that Jack was the modern-day equivalent of a rake. Fun for an evening, but certainly not father material.

So, Delaney has the baby on her own, finishes her residency and moves to Harp Cove to start her medical practice. Naturally, one of her first patients is Jack. It turns out Delaney misunderstood. Jack does, indeed, live in Harp Cove. Not on Cape Cod, as she had believed.

Poor Jack has been conked over the head with a statue of Wonder Woman by his nineteen-year-old girlfriend, Lisa, who took exception to his attempt to break things off with her. He’s come to the town’s new doctor for stitches. Jack’s thrilled to see Delaney again. He could have kicked himself for not getting her phone number after that night, but Delaney’s not as thrilled. She has something to hide...her six-month-old daughter, Emily. Their daughter, actually. So Delaney does the only thing a girl can do in such a situation. She lies.

Delaney tells Jack she’s married. To a guy named Jim...er, Joe...um, Jim. Unfortunately, Delaney has difficulty keeping her "husband’s" name straight. Jim-Joe is still in D.C., practicing law, but he will join them soon. To make matters worse, Jack happens to own the cottage Delaney is renting and he also lives on the property. Delaney’s one lie is now mushrooming out of control. With Jack living close by, she’s forced to fill her house with evidence of a male presence.

She buys clothes that couldn’t possibly fit a husband described as 6'2", cuts photos of a handsome model out of a magazine to frame and set on her mantel (which does set up one of the funniest scenes in the book) and goes about hiding any reference to her daughter’s true age. Obviously, she assumes Jack can count, although she doesn’t give him credit for much else.

In short, I didn’t much like Delaney. She’s selfish, a snob and a liar. Definitely not heroine material. One would assume anyone who’s successfully completed medical school would be somewhat clever, but Delaney shows little evidence of the slightest intelligence.

I’ve read too many romantic comedies lately where the heroine is, quite simply, an airhead. I much prefer an intelligent heroine caught up in an absurd situation as the basis for the comedy, in opposition to a moronic heroine who gets what she deserves. What disturbed me most about Maybe Baby are the heartbreaking scenes between Jack and Emily. Any fool could see Jack would make a loving, sensitive dad. Anyone but Delaney, who’s willing to believe the local "gossip cauldron" over what her own eyes (and heart) should have told her. Jack (and little Emily) deserved better.

Author Elaine Fox has a lively, conversational style of writing that really pulled me into the story, no matter how much Delaney’s behavior aggravated. That, and the eager anticipation of Jack’s reaction when he discovers Delaney’s deception, were what kept me reading straight through to the finish. Unfortunately, Jack’s reaction nearly made this book a wall-banger. I don’t want to give anything away, but Jack’s reaction seemed totally out of character...for anybody.

While I don’t wholeheartedly recommend Maybe Baby, I will give the author another try in the future, based solely on her crisp writing style. I only hope she’ll imbue her future characters with a bit more heart, intelligence and backbone.

--Karen Lynch


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