|Part of “The Cupid Campaign”, our little friend missed the mark when he shot this arrow. One Man and a Baby reads like parts of the story are missing, which may mean that it was in a previous book of the series, or it may mean that the author just didn’t know the answers. However, in this case, the lack of that information made the tale seem half written.
Ashley Meljac is the daughter of the owner of Seven Hills Horse Farm. Gene, her dad, is contemplating retirement. Ashley wants to take over the farm, but she has just recently returned home after a disastrous first marriage where she lost half her inheritance because she was too trusting of her spouse. Gene doesn’t think she can handle the farm, so he hires Rick Capriotti. Rick is a bad boy (or so we have been told) and has just recently returned to the area. He has a baby in tow, which he hopes to hide until after his father’s re-election. Rick is the son of the local mayor who is running for re-election. His child is the result of a liaison he had with a senator’s daughter. He doesn’t want his dad to have to defend his actions and he doesn’t want the senator to know that her daughter dumped the child in Rick’s lap. Rick is afraid the senator will sue for custody (due to his political beliefs) and Rick doesn’t think he can win due to his history of being a rodeo bum and general rabble-rouser.
To complicate matters, Rick wants the job because he wants to move back home and be close to family, while Ashley wants the job because she feels it is hers by rights. Gene takes off on vacation, telling Rick to run the place and teach Ashley everything he can. Rick starts by having her haul manure, which Ashley resents. They are attracted to one another and have to fight their continuing lust for each other. Ashley finds out about the baby and agrees to help Rick keep his secret in exchange for really teaching her the ropes.
There are plenty of questions that go unanswered, as well as events that are not fully explained. For example, Ashley’s dad ends up engaged when he is in the Caribbean sailing. He does so without really telling Ashley. Why? What is it about their relationship that would cause a father to hide this from his only daughter? Another example is when the senator pops up. There is no explanation of how he found out about Rick and the baby.
Rick’s past is discussed as if we know what he did as a young boy. He is worried about the townspeople and we have no clue why, other than the explanation that he was wild and crazy. Ashley is ashamed that she allowed herself to be swindled and the townspeople seem to think she is somehow at fault. There is no real explanation as to how she got the blame when it looks like the scumbag that married her should be the one to take the heat.
There are parts of the story that are moving, but generally it seemed forced. The actions of all the characters seem to come out of the blue rather than following a logical pattern. The ending was particularly rushed.
If you have read the previous installment of the series, some of this might make more sense. If not, pass by when you see One Man and a Baby.
-- Shirley Lyons