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
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.