Baby, Oh Baby!
Ooh, La La!

The Babe Magnet by Robin Wells
(LoveSpell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52536-4
There is a lot to like in The Babe Magnet, not the least of which is the refreshingly un-adorable – and completely realistic – baby that centers the plot. Add a heroine with a few self-esteem issues and a hero who’s in over his head, and you have a light contemporary romance that fits the bill as a summer beach read.

Stevie Stedquest is a parenting “expert” with her own weekly talk show, where she dispenses parenting advice. Stevie, however, is not married and has no children of her own, but she has a couple of degrees in child psychology or somesuch. Be warned that your enjoyment of the story is likely to hinge on your ability to get past this implausible setup, and I admit, it irritated me at first. Stevie longs for a family and husband, not necessarily in that order, and has just about convinced herself that artificial insemination is the way to go when Hold Landen turns up with a screaming baby and a wild proposition.

Holt has just been informed he’s the father of a six-month-old girl, the result of a one-night fling on a skiing trip. The mother is now dead (car crash) and she named Holt the guardian and father. Holt has no choice but to take on the infant. Little Isabelle has problems bonding with anyone, the result of her flighty mother’s lack of emotional care, and she screams constantly. Holt is at his wits end when he and Isabelle hear Stevie’s voice on the radio, and Isabelle miraculously quiets down. Holt tracks Stevie down outside the studio and proposes a marriage of convenience. Stevie can legally adopt Isabelle, then they will divorce, but Isabelle gets two parents for life.

Stevie’s initial reaction is “forget it”, but she can’t help caring about Isabelle, who seems so helpless and defiant. There’s no way a guy as gorgeous as Holt could possible have any interest in a plain, formerly-fat nobody like her, and she’s not about to let herself fall for him. Holt sets out to convince her.

The rest of the story is predictable, and the author livens things up a bit with two secondary romances involving Stevie’s parents and Holt’s long-divorced parents. Stevie, for her part, is quite believable as a woman who’s been cheated on before and doesn’t have much confidence in her looks. The author wisely doesn’t make her immediately irresistible to Holt, either. As you might imagine happening in real life, her looks grow on him gradually, until her sees her as truly beautiful – inside and out. Her fear of being hurt again by another good-looking guy works well and feels realistic.

Holt, on the other hand, is a bit forced. His excuse (and it came across as more excuse than conflict) is that his parents divorced when he was little and his father wasn’t around much, so he’d be a lousy husband, yadda, yadda. Frankly, I don’t have much patience with characters who reach the age of thirty or so and haven’t yet figured out that they don’t have to live their parent’s lives over again, and Holt’s conflict just didn’t work very well. His stubbornness sets up what passes for the climax in the story, but because he’s just being a pigheaded idiot, it’s more exasperating than interesting.

However, there are plenty of fun moments in The Babe Magnet, and if you are looking for a light contemporary romance, this one is a good choice for a lazy summer day. And fussy, irritable, looking-for-love Isabelle just might steal your heart.

--Cathy Sova

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