The Arrangement

The Gamble

Golden Girl

His Lordship's Mistress &
Married by Mistake

No Dark Place

The Pretenders

Royal Bride


Someday Soon

High Meadow by Joan Wolf
(Warner, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-446-61043-7
Twenty years ago Joan Wolf wrote a category romance about a Latino baseball player and an unplanned pregnancy. Beloved Stranger was reprinted in 1994 which is when I read it. It resides among my keepers. Hence, when I realized that Wolf was revisiting this plot, I was intrigued. Unfortunately, the authorís new take on the tale in the longer format lacks the appeal of her earlier effort.

Wolf doesnít really repeat the scenario of her earlier story. There are differences. Daniel Montero is a pitcher, not an outfielder. The child in question is seven when the story takes place, not still in the womb. And the heroine is not the birth mother, but rather the aunt and adopted mother of young Ben.

The story begins when an old, disreputable boyfriend of Colleen, the sister, turns up at High Meadows. He is surprised to find that Colleen died six years ago and that her sister Kate, with the help of her mother, is raising her son. He also knows the identity of the father - Daniel Montero, star pitcher of the New York Yankees. The slimy Marty decides to take advantage of his special knowledge. He heads off to see Daniel, figuring that the ball player will pay handsomely to keep this secret. After all, Montero could face some hefty child support payments.

Instead, Marty finds himself thrown out on his ear. Turns out that Daniel is delighted to discover that he has a son. A couple of years ago a bad case of mumps left him sterile. He wants to be a part of his sonís life. But Kate is less than delighted to have this rich and handsome man turn up on her doorstep. She has devoted herself to Ben and to making the family horse farm a success. She understandably fears that she will lose the boy she loves.

The set-up is pretty obvious. Daniel proves a paragon in every way, including falling in love with the woman who has cared for his son. Kate resists for a while; she has had no time for love or romance. But how can any woman resist a man like Daniel? Indeed, the plot device that keeps the two from moving swiftly from love to consummation to marriage is pretty flimsy.

What really struck me about High Meadow was how pedestrian the writing is. I do not usually notice writing style, which is as it should be. But here I noticed. Wolf engages in long, didactic passages about horse training. She describes Danielís pitching duels with opposing batters in excruciating detail. When she introduces a subplot concerning Kateís motherís breast cancer and treatment, it seemed like she is describing the symptoms for a medical journal rather than a romance novel.

Actually, the secondary romance between Kateís mother and Danielís friend is more interesting than the primary love story. At least there is some real conflict here. Will Molly give up her comfortable life in Connecticut and move to Colombia with Alberto? Would anyone move to Colombia in 2003?

All in all, High Meadow is a disappointing contemporary romance. The characters are clichťs, not real people. The conflict is artificial. The writing is lackluster. If you want a Wolf story about a Latino baseball player and an unplanned pregnancy, search out your used book store for Beloved Stranger and read it instead. It might be a bit dated, but at least itís entertaining.

--Jean Mason

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