Lovers & Other Lunatics

Wanted Across Time

The Great Baby Caper by Eugenia Riley
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52461-9
The Great Baby Caper has at its heart one of the most obnoxious heroines I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter between the pages of a book. Whining, martyred, self-absorbed, professional victim -- you name it, she displays it. Add to this a plot so contrived that even a ten-year-old would likely say “Oh, come on!” and what you have is a book that pretty much fails on every level.

Courtney Kelly, hotshot MBA, is one of four people in line for the CEO position at Bootle’s Baby Bower. The hitch is that the boss, eccentric M. Billingham Bootle, plans to choose his successor based on how well he or she can complete a task. Courtney’s task, handed to her at the company convention, is to seek out and marry the most eligible bachelor in New Orleans by the following morning.

Courtney briefly gives thought to doing what any intelligent woman would do, that is telling the old codger to stuff it, but decides that the CEO job is too important. After all, she’s worked for it! She’s had her MBA for a whole five years! So, assisted by her chauffeur, Courtney bumbles her way around New Orleans, running into drunks and losers aplenty, until the chauffeur suggests she try one of the posh hotels. There Courtney hits pay dirt. She meets Mark Billingham, who is only too happy to pose as her fiancé for the evening.

Courtney is astounded when the sexy Brit turns out to be old M. Bootle’s grandson. Seems that Mark has been admiring Courtney from afar in the videos he’s seen of Bootle’s board meetings. Granddad figured this was the perfect setup for Mark to meet her. Courtney, of course, now quits the company and refuses to have anything to do with Mark. Well, for at least fifteen minutes, anyway. That’s about how long it takes him to convince Courtney to have dinner with him. They spend a romantic evening walking around New Orleans, end up at his hotel, and Courtney decides she wants to sleep with him and joins him in the shower. Bear in mind this is HER decision - Mark, knowing they've both been drinking and not wanting to take advantage of the situation, is only too happy to sleep on the couch.

This book might have had a fighting chance up until this point, silly premise and all, but what happens next put the kibosh on it. Mark awakens the next morning completely in love, and offers to marry Courtney immediately. Courtney, displaying the kind of deep emotional maturity we all despise in heroines, tells him:

“I’m sorry, Mark. I-I just can’t deal with your grandfather again, which means I can’t deal with you, either. We’re going to have to make a clean break of this. Anything else, I…I just can’t take.”

Nothing like hanging the grandson for Grandpa’s crimes, eh? No matter that Mark was as unaware of his grandfather’s schemings as Courtney was. Courtney leaves in a tearful huff. Mark, bewildered, goes back to England. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

Oh, go ahead. Plot out the rest of this book. You know she’s going to get pregnant after their one fling, don’t you? You know Mark is going to convince Courtney to marry him, at least for the sake of the child, don’t you? You know Courtney is going to spend THE REST OF THE BOOK blaming Mark for this predicament and insisting she can never trust him, don’t you? You know she will nevernevernever admit to herself that a) she loves the guy and b) it was her idea to sleep with him in the first place, don’t you?

And what a waste of a decent hero. All Mark Billingham wants is to love and cherish Courtney, god only knows why, and what serves as conflict in this story is nothing more than his object of affection acting like an immature candidate for Victim of the Year. The Great Baby Caper doesn't even come close to living up to its cutesy name and cutesy, baby-filled cover. This book wasn’t cute. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t entertaining. And it’s definitely not recommended.

--Cathy Sova

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