The Cowboy's Ideal Wife

The Pregnancy Project
by Victoria Pade
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1711, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24711-7
At 35, federal prosecutor Ella Gardner is desperate for a baby. She already tried to get pregnant the natural way, but it didn't work and her marriage fell apart. Next, she consulted several fertility specialists for in vitro treatment, but all those attempts also failed. Now, she is going to try her hand with Dr. Jacob Weber who, despite his notoriously bad bedside manner, is considered the best in the field.

Withdrawn and surly, Jacob does not usually warm to his patients, but one look at Ella and he knows there is something special about her. He is not convinced he can do very much, but he signs her up for an experimental program that has already begun and promises to help her catch up. It isn't professional dedication, however, that has him looking forward to their encounters. Dispensing with any ethical problems regarding patient-doctor involvement (technically, she is not under his care), he pursues her company beyond the call of duty.

Once Jacob finds out that Ella attended Saunders College, he enlists her help in a group of alumni working to defend Professor Gilbert Harrison against charges of misconduct. She has good but secret reasons to support the cause and eventually confesses them to Jacob. In turn, he reveals the reasons for his long-rooted appreciation for the professor. By trusting each other, Jacob and Ella open their hearts to love. But they still have to find their way past one final bump in the road to happiness. Although rooted in their inner conflicts, it is not entirely foreseeable and recharges a story that was beginning to drag.

My major contentions with The Pregnancy Project are with the inconsistent and implausible main characters. Ella's desire for a child of her own is credible, but she never considers how she will take care of it and how she will reconcile her demanding profession with single parenthood. But this is a minor problem compared to those I see in Jacob. His stand-offish behavior, he explains, is a protective mechanism he developed during his childhood and adolescence. Abandoned by both his parents to live in an expensive family house, he fended for himself. Not wanting anyone to discover the truth about the poor little rich kid, he refused friendship of any kind. I find it hard to believe that he could pull this off without anyone catching on.

Even less convincing is his love-at-practically-the-first-glance. His reputation as gruff and unfriendly aside, would someone who has spent a lifetime building barriers throw them away in response to a sudden flash of feeling? I suppose we are to make much of the fact that he loves dogs and in particular an abandoned puppy, but given everything else we are told about him, I just couldn't buy it.

The Pregnancy Project is part of a series revolving around Professor Harrison and his former students. Sections of the novel were more focused on introducing the characters in future sequels and their issues than on exploring the conflict between Jacob and Ella. But then, given the fact that one of the major issues between them - his personality - is resolved very early, that is probably a good thing. I did not, however, find the hints intriguing enough to keep my eyes out for future installments.

If they are anything like this one, they will be acceptable, but not particularly memorable novels about two people who must share secrets and learn to trust again before they accept true love.

--Mary Benn

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