Baby, Oh Baby! By Robin Wells
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52427-9
****
Two years ago, Jake Chastaine lost both his wife and parents in the same devastating car accident. Still living with the grief, life gets more complicated when he receives a letter from the Tulsa Fertility Center. He and Rachel were undergoing treatment there when she died, and they now mistakenly think that he is a former donor. When he arrives to set the matter straight, he finds out that the doctor they were seeing has since left the clinic and had his license revoked. Seems this doctor had a habit of dipping into sperm samples he wasnít supposed to, and Jake is shocked to learn that he has a baby.

Annie Hollister is a former advertising executive who left the sea of corporate sharks when she was willed her grandparentís ranch in Lucky, Oklahoma. Divorced, older and wiser, Annie decides that now is the time to have a baby. Unfortunately, since there are no takers, she canít go about getting pregnant the old fashioned way. So, she goes to the Tulsa Fertility Center, undergoes artificial insemination, and voila! - She now has a beautiful 14-month-old daughter, Madeline.

Jake is stunned to learn that heís a daddy, and immediately takes steps to find Annie Hollister. When he does, he is stunned to meet the beautiful, eccentric woman he has fathered a child with. After a very rocky start, they realize that in order to give Madeline the best of both worlds, theyíll have to work out an amicable arrangement. However, the more time they spend together, both Annie and Jake begin to have desires that go way beyond amicable.

Baby, Oh Baby! is the type of book I probably would not have picked up had I not been assigned to review it. The back cover blurb did little to pique my interest, in fact instilling a sense of dread. It led me to believe that Annie would be somewhat of a flake, and I really hate flaky heroines. In fact, sheís a very practical person, smart, funny, with just the right amount of eccentricities to make her interesting. Jake observes throughout the course of the story that a person would always know where they stand with Annie.

Jake is an interesting blend of wounded and alpha hero. Heís a corporate lawyer (how alpha can you get?), but the tragic death of his wife has left him a hollow man. He loved her and was desperately trying to have a baby with her - not something he can let go of real easily. Finding out about Madeline begins to lift the fog, and he struggles with his growing attraction to Annie.

While an enjoyable story, I did have a couple of nagging problems with it. First, Jake also lost his parents in the car accident that killed Rachel, but their death is hardly addressed. The author does such a nice job of setting the groundwork for how Rachelís death affected Jake, that it made the minimally mentioned death of his parents a little hard to take.

In addition, it was nice to know that Jake and Rachel were in love. However, I kept getting the feeling that I was being manipulated into hating her. There are several backhanded comments about Rachel over the course of the story -- such as she wouldnít let Jake have a dog because of their white carpeting and how Jake gave up woodworking because it clashed with Rachelís love for modern dťcor. It is unnecessary for the reader to hate Rachel. Jake loved her, they were married, and discerning readers will be able to accept this fact.

As an added bonus, Wells includes a very nice secondary storyline about Rachelís parents. The death of their daughter haunts Tom and Susanna, damaging their marriage in the process. Watching them make their way back to each other was equally enjoyable, as I practically liked Susannaís steel magnolia persona.

Baby, Oh Baby! is a nice contemporary love story that had me easily turning the pages. While a bit skeptical in the beginning, the authorís solid characterizations and writing style won me over. In the future, the next time I pick up a Robin Wells novel, Iíll ignore the back cover blurb and just dive right in.

--Wendy Crutcher


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