And Baby Makes Six
by Linda Markowiak
(Harlequin Super. #920, 4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70920-X
How many books have you read where the children are all too perfect to be real? Linda Markowiak has certainly not created those perfect kids in her book And Baby Makes Six. These four boys and a girl are portrayed as real children, warts and all. Their antics are important to the love story between the two main characters.

Mitch Oliver is a retired pro hockey star who quit playing when he was at the top of his game to come home and take care of his dying wife. She made him promise to take care of their four sons. Four years later, he is running his own sporting goods store and taking care of Jason, 11, twins Tommy & Ryan, 15, and Luke, the oldest. They have a big house, a big boisterous dog, and can't seem to keep a housekeeper. While on a vacation, Mitch gets word that his widowed sister, Kathy, as died in a car accident and that he has been named guardian of his 8-year-old niece, Crystal.

Kathy's best friend, Jenny Litton, loves Crystal and is reluctant to let her go with an uncle she barely knows. Jenny's lawyer and Social Services inform her that there is no choice, but that they will have a social worker visit Mitch's home to make sure that everything is in order. Crystal is very much a feminine little girl and has never been around many boys or men. Jenny is concerned that Crystal and her cat may never adjust to the Oliver household.

Jenny has several problems of her own. She had been engaged to the owner of the real estate company where she worked. When she told him she was pregnant and would not get an abortion, he broke the engagement. Now, two weeks after Crystal leaves to live with Mitch, the real estate company goes under and Jenny is out of a job. That same day, Crystal sends Jenny a cryptic e-mail message saying she is hurt and bleeding.

When Jenny arrives, she finds that Crystal only had a scrape on her arm, but she finds a crazy household. Mitch persuades her to stay for a while to spend time with Crystal and to see that he and his boys are not monsters. Since she no longer has a job, she agrees to do so. As she becomes part of the group, she and Mitch become more and more attracted to each other. Jenny is afraid of this because all the men in her life have left her, from her father to her fiancÚ. Now that she is pregnant with another man's child, she is sure that Mitch will not want to get involved with her.

Jenny's adjustment to the boys is not shown as easy. Ryan particularly tries her patience and resents her. She is a very feminine, organized person and these teenaged boys are nothing like that. Although it takes most of the story, the eventual adjustment is believable.

Mitch is a man's man, but with the best qualities. Sports have been his life, but he loved his wife and was faithful to her even with the temptations of the pro hockey world. He also loves his kids and wants to win Crystal's trust, though he has to learn how. His reaction to Jenny's pregnancy is in character and how he handles it makes sense.

And Baby Makes Six is a warm blended-family story with realistic people. I would love to see another book with Mitch's oldest son, Luke as the lead. He would make a good leading man and we could hear how the rest of the family is doing!

--B. Kathy Leitle

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