Convincing Jamey

Knight Errant

Murphy's Law

Older, Wiser...Pregnant

Passion

Season for Miracles

Some Enchanted Season

Suspicion

The Taming of Reid Donovan

 
Father to Be by Marilyn Pappano
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-57985-1
***
You can't help but like Father To Be -- it's a heartwarming story. However, reading Father To Be did not give me the feeling that I was reading a romance. Actually, it felt more like I was reading a script for the television series, Touched By an Angel.

After twelve-year-old Caleb Brown is caught stealing food to feed his younger brothers and baby sister, he and his siblings are put into foster care. They're sent to stay with the handsome town psychiatrist, J.D. Grayson.

Initially, J.D. doesn't want the responsibility -- there's a lot of pain in J.D.'s past and having a ready-made family is not something he's sure he can handle. However, an angelic and very persuasive social worker convinces J.D. that he's the most qualified person to help these abandoned and neglected children come to terms with their new lives.

So J.D. takes the children and he has some success with the little ones. However, Caleb doesn't like J.D. and he's sure J.D. doesn't like him. He doesn't want his siblings to get used to living with J.D -- the cushy new style of life that includes enough food to eat, decent clothes and TV. Caleb is sure his father (who's been gone for a month) is going to return and then everything will be fine for his family.

Burned out from being a social worker in the tough streets of New York City, Kelsey Malone decides to move to upstate New York. Bethlehem with its pretty peaceful streets and good neighbors seems ideal.

And it is ideal except for the fact that someone put the four Brown children into the care of the town's psychiatrist, J.D. Grayson, a single man with only a spare bedroom. Kelsey doesn't understand how J.D. could have been given temporary custody of four children without some kind of formal investigation.

Kelsey knows only too well that you can't afford to make mistakes when children's lives are at stake, so she's going to have to keep a close watch on the Brown children and on J.D. Grayson. Although J.D. finds Kelsey very attractive, he's not willing to share the painful secrets that have brought him to Bethlehem -- secrets that might make Kelsey think twice about allowing him to care for the Browns.

As always in Ms. Pappano's Bethlehem books there's a higher power moving things along in the right direction. And many of the likeable characters from her previous books, Season for Miracles and Some Enchanted Season, make a reappearance in Father To Be.

With the exception of the ending, I don't really have a problem with this tale; it's warm and tugs the heartstrings. However the focus, or heart, of this story is the relationship between Caleb Brown and J.D. Grayson. The romance between J.D and Kelsey is a nice, strong supporting subplot but it's not the meat of this story.

For me a happy ending was not about whether J.D and Kelsey lived happily ever after but whether Caleb and J.D. would be able to work through their problems. I have to admit I felt slightly shortchanged by the ending. The Brown children with their crucial and compelling concerns stole the story and I felt they deserved to steal the ending, too.

--Judith Flavell


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