The Baby Pursuit by Laurie Paige
(Silhouette, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-65031-0
Bad news for all us Fortune fans! The latest entry in the "Fortune's of Texas" series just didn’t work for yours truly. While the book has a nice heroine and an interesting hero, the story just didn’t add up. In fact, the holes were big enough to drive a truck through.

Remember the set-up. Baby Bryan Fortune is kidnapped from his own christening party. A note demanding $50 million ransom is left behind. Remember also, that it wasn’t really Baby Bryan whom the villains snatched. Instead, it was the infant son of patriarch Ryan Fortune’s onetime lover’s daughter and an unnamed Fortune. Maria Cassidy had placed her baby in Bryan’s nursery for somewhat inexplicable motives which made sense to her. When Maria discovered that the kidnappers had seized her child, she took Baby Bryan herself, convinced that if the truth were known, her baby would be lost forever. Whew! Talk about complications!

Anyhow, it is now two months later, and FBI agent, Devin Kincaid has been sent to the Fortune Ranch to work on the case. Which was my first major problem with the story. Kidnapping is a federal offense and the FBI is almost always called in from the start. Can you imagine that it would be two months before the FBI would get really involved in the case of the kidnapping of the scion of a prominent family?

As soon as he arrives at the ranch, Devin meets Vanessa Fortune, Baby Bryan’s aunt and a graduate student in psychology who apparently has done some work with the police on other crimes. Vanessa wants to be a part of the investigation. The two experience one of those instant attractions of a sexual nature that often strike me as an easy way out for an author who has too much to do in too few pages.

Devin doesn’t really want Vanessa involved but, after all, if she weren’t, there wouldn’t be a romance. So the two become better acquainted as they search for clues. Which is another problem with the story. Devin becomes suspicious of a cowhand who left the ranch right after the kidnapping and Vanessa finds a clue connecting said fellow to the crime. Do you share my belief that somebody would have gotten suspicious of said cowboy and tried to track him down sooner? And that the search of the premises would have conveniently overlooked an errant spur?

The true villains of the piece are also uncovered in the book, but only to the reader. Again, Devin has suspicions about the culprits. His behavior in this instance seems highly unprofessional. Indeed, the actions of all the law enforcement folks makes me hope I never need to depend on their services. And finally, Vanessa pulls a “too stupid to live” stunt at the end of the book.

As for the romance, it’s pretty standard. Devin is the typical loner with an unhappy childhood who doesn’t believe in love and family and certainly doesn’t think he has a future with a Fortune heiress. Vanessa is your bright and beautiful twenty-six year old virgin who has avoided men because she is convinced they are all after her money, but decides Devin is her soul mate.

As is ever the case, I don’t know how many of the above problems to blame on the author or how many of them simply result from the need to write according to “the book” presented to her by the editors. Paige’s writing is generally smooth, her dialogue is good, and the romance is well enough done. But the rest of the book just doesn’t add up.

Clearly, readers who have decided to embark on the new Fortune saga will have to read The Baby Pursuit (which, by the way, is a potentially ingenuous title, suggesting, as it does, the ever-popular “baby book”). Still, I hope that this installment is not an omen of things to come. I know the Fortune books are pure soap opera, but I still expect that the stories will make more sense than this one did.

--Jean Mason

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