Mad About Max

Noah and the Stork
by Penny McCusker
(Harl. American #1082, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-75086-2
The day after the senior prom, Noah Bryant left both his despised small-town home and the woman he loved to seek his fortune in the big city. Noah and the Stork is the story of the events following his return ten years later.

The first person that Noah encounters in his old hometown of Erskine, Montana, is his first love, Janey Walters. The second is their daughter Jessie. Unknown to Noah, the night of the prom when Noah and Janey lost their virginity to each other, Janey became pregnant. Hence the “stork” part of the story title, although that doesn’t seem to apply nine years after childbirth.

Janey had loved Noah since the fourth grade and had to live through a very sad and difficult situation after his abrupt departure. She faced down her disapproving and disappointed parents and braved the small town gossip to keep and rear her daughter all alone. Because Janey is now mayor of Erskine, the gossip will start all over again with Noah’s return. She is understandably reluctant to allow Noah back into her life, but realizes that her daughter and Noah have a right to get to know one another.

Noah’s job as a location scout for a major chain store operation is the reason for his return. He wants to purchase land near Erskine for the construction of a new “Megamart” store, which will hopefully benefit Erskine and the surrounding small town communities with jobs and tax revenue. Janey feels that the new store will cause more harm than good and does not trust “Megamart’s” reputation for destroying small town economies. She feels also that Noah has enough hostility toward Erskine to cause its economic downfall on purpose. The subsequent battles over Noah’s position in Janey and Jessie’s lives and the disagreements over the value of building the new store comprise the bulk of the book.

This book would be a lot easier to review if there was a rating of “OK - don’t avoid it but don’t rush out to buy it either.” There are a lot of good aspects and several bad ones, but none that stood out enough to make Noah and the Stork anything but mediocre.

For instance, Janey’s a strong, respectable character, carrying on with her life in circumstances that would have ruined a lot of other people. Her mothering is fabulous and she’s reared a confident child. But after spending a lot of time telling Noah to please go away right now, she falls back into bed with him pretty hastily. When it appears that she and Noah could finally enjoy an adult relationship she allows the conflict with Noah’s job to come between them.

The conflict about the store was a definite drawback. It went on and on without ever having any hope for resolution and interfered so much with the story that the romance had to take the back seat a good part of the time.

The love scenes were warm enough but nothing to dream about.

There are some interesting secondary characters in Noah and the Stork, most notably the deputy sheriff, Clary. Clary is in love with Janey, cares deeply for Jessie and hates it that Noah has come back to compete for their attention. He’s a great guy and will hopefully play the lead in a future book.

--Wendy Livingston

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