Temporary Daddy by Jennifer Mikels
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1192, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24192-5
Let's start by talking externals for a minute. The cover of Temporary Daddy is wonderful, if you like great looking hunks holding cute babies. I do, and we know up front that a baby is involved. The title and the cover advertise that fact. No surprises there. I found the back blurb to be a minor irritant. The hero's name back there is not the same as in the book. Nothing major, just an annoyance.

Dylan Marek opens his door to Chelsea Huntsford, to find her holding a baby. He hasn't seen her in two years, not since he quit dating her and starting dating her sexy cousin, Lauren. He can't imagine what she wants from him.

Chelsea has reason to suspect that Dylan may be the father of Lauren's baby. With Lauren now dead and the birth certificate listing the father as unknown, Chelsea is tying up loose ends. She wants to adopt baby Max. If Dylan is the father, then she needs his permission.

What sets this story apart from the hundreds of other baby books is the quality of the writing. Dylan, as we discover throughout the course of the story, has solid reasons for doubting in love and family relationships. Left by his mother in the care of his grandmother, he's also abandoned by her and placed in foster care. He's always resented that his grandmother wouldn't allow him to be adopted. So his knowledge of families is skewed. He's never had anybody in his corner.

Dylan starts spending time with Chelsea and Max. He had stopped dating her when he realized that she was the marrying kind. Part of him was appalled that marriage to her seemed like a good idea. He opted for hurting her early in the relationship rather than hurting her later. Or so he says to himself. Deep down, he's afraid of the same kind of bone-chilling rejection he's experienced all his life.

The first time that he babysits Max, the depth of his feelings surprises him. He's not sure yet if he's Max's father, but nevertheless he's being drawn to Max.

Unable to resist, he brought Max against his chest and held his warm body close. So small. So trusting. He'd never been this close to a baby, never even held one. At one time, he hadn't understood why people fussed over them.
Now he did.

Watching Dylan learn about Max is a study in delight. When Chelsea observes the contents of his refrigerator and then asks what he's going to feed Max, Dylan couldn't fathom what the problem was. "He's only got one tooth. I didn't think he ate."

Chelsea, reared by wealthy parents, has known rejection, too. She's always felt like the plain Jane member of her family, the Ugly Duckling. Her father, who always preferred her brother, perpetuated this image. Not knowing the real reason for Dylan's departure, she still assumes that she isn't the woman for him. She feels that she lacks effervescence, the quick wit and charm that he wants in a woman.

Both are wrong, and luckily for us, both will realize their misconceptions in plenty of time for us to enjoy their relationship. We see them bond together, both for themselves and for Max.

Several subplots run through the story, but never overshadow the growing relationship. Is Dylan really Max's father? Will Lauren's mother, Max's grandmother, give her permission for Chelsea to adopt the baby? We also learn about Chelsea's background, which explains the treatment she received from her parents.

Happy endings are a given. Rarely is one so evident in such a positive manner. That proverbial lightbulb turns on when Dylan realizes what love is. He knows that Chelsea makes him smile, makes him laugh and makes him feel good in the middle of the night and in the morning.

He'd found a child who needed a home as much as he had. He'd found a woman who made him feel complete, the one he wanted to build a life with.

This complete cycle of an abandoned man, wounded woman and homeless child epitomizes the best that romances have to offer. Family. Security. Love. Purpose. Temporary Daddy has it all.

--Linda Mowery

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