Here Comes the...Baby
by Pam McCutcheon
(Harlequin American #722, $3.99,PG) ISBN 0-373-16722-9
***
Here Comes the Baby is the first of the "Shower" series. No, we're not talking about April showers. Think bridal and baby showers. Continuing in May is A Bachelor Falls by Karen Toller Whittenburg. "Showers" ends in June with Bride to Be...Or Not by Debbi Rawlins.

The story begins on an airplane with Blake Warner comforting a tearful Lana Talbot. She explains that her childhood sweetheart has dumped her and married someone else. The flight is diverted to Las Vegas, leaving Lana with no place to stay. Blake has a suite, so he saves the day. He offers comfort and Lana accepts. She sneaks out the next morning, thinking that she'll never see him again.

What I just described is the only normal part of the book. When Lana arrives back in Bachelor Falls, Missouri, the story begins to go out of focus. Lana's mother wants her to lie and say that the marriage did take place. Seems she's bragged to her arch rival about Lana's marriage. Lana agrees to the ruse . . . just for a while . . . in order to placate her mother and save her mother's social standing.

Lana discovers she's pregnant, but can't locate Blake. Blake has been unable to banish Lana from his thoughts. She mentioned her hometown, so he's able to find her. He appears just when the townspeople are giving Lana a baby shower. Blake draws the wrong conclusion and leaves. Lana has tried to explain, but he won't listen to her. He leaves with things unresolved. It gets even stranger when Lana's "husband" appears with his wife. Blake, knowing that he's the father, proposes. Lana senses that he's proposing out of a sense of duty and declines.

From here on out the story takes strange twists. The town of Bachelor Falls is named from some nearby falls. Legend has it that if a bachelor does not shower there on a certain day, his bachelor days are over. So far the legend has remained true. When Blake and Lana finally agree to marry, that will leave one bachelor unmarried and will shatter the legend. The men of Bachelor Falls can't let that happen, so they begin a plan to separate Lana and Blake, hoping that she'll marry the local guy.

The two main characters are drawn with some normalcy, but the rest of the characters are nutcases. Ever met a mayor who can fire a teacher because she's unmarried and pregnant? He's here. Ever met a mayor who tries to drug the groom on the eve of his wedding to prevent it? He's here. Ever met townspeople who believe so strongly in a legend that they conspire to get a woman to marry a local man, although he's not the father of her child? They're here. The mayor has such power that he won't let Lana change the date of the wedding.

At times Bachelor Falls has a Brigadoon feel to it. These people and their customs were unique and occasionally charming. At other times I thought that we were in Stepford. It's strange to see the group mentality at work. What saves this book from being ridiculous and from getting a two-heart rating is that it does have an underlying goodness to it. However, what is supposed to be comedic is really absurd and foolish. Somehow, I couldn't buy into the premise that the townspeople would act like buffoons all because of a legend.

There is a recurring theme that I found sweet and genuine. Pregnant Lana feels that the town is in two main camps: the Pregnancy Police and the Belly Buffers. One group gives advice, and another feels that her protruding abdomen is now public domain, available for anybody to touch the growing child inside.

Finishing this book became a challenge. I'd put it down, thinking that things couldn't get more outlandish. Then my curiosity would get the better of me, and I'd read more. Sure enough, more bizarre events would occur.This process repeated itself until—lo and behold—I found myself at the end of the book.

If you want comedic humor that borders on the nonsensical, look no further.

--Linda Mowery


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