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The Unclaimed Baby
by Sherryl Woods
(Silhouette, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-48377-5
***
Have you been following Sherryl Woods series "And Baby Makes Three" about the Adams family of Texas and their rather unusual interpersonal/familial relationships? If so, then you'll probably want to pick up Woods' new single title from Silhouette. If you are not among the Adams family cognoscenti, this may not be your kind of book, unless of course you like babies, cowboys and marriages of convenience (sort of) stories.

Sharon Lynn Adams (Mason) had a brief and tragic marriage. After waiting years to marry neighbor Kyle Mason, she lost him on her wedding night to a drunk driver. Needless to say, less than a year later, she has not fully recovered, especially since she was driving the car at that time. She has moved into town and bought the local drugstore to keep busy since her dreams of marriage and family have come a cropper.

One cold and snowy night, a tall, rugged, handsome stranger arrives at her store just as she is about to close up. After a moment of trepidation, she recognizes Cord Branson as one of the good guys, and fixes him some food. Cord has come to Los Pinos to try to get a job at the Adams ranch.

While they are talking, there is a strange noise at the back of the store. They go to check it out and Cord finds an abandoned baby, left in the snow beside the dumpster. Sharon Lynn takes the baby home with her and arranges to be given temporary custody as the foster parent.

The whole Adams clan rallies around Sharon Lynn, concerned that she may become too attached to the child. For his part, Cord is already much taken with the lovely woman with the sad eyes and is likewise falling for the baby he helped rescue. But will Sharon Lynn be able to keep the child, especially when a grandmother shows up? Wouldn't it be better if, in the custody battle that is sure to follow, Sharon Lynn can offer not a single mother but a two parent home for baby Ashley? Cord, of course, is willing to be the father figure.

This is the gist of The Unclaimed Baby.

Of course, in addition, there are the complicated family dynamics of the Adams clan. There is the matchmaking grandfather, the concerned father, the sheriff cousin, the doctor cousin, the lawyer step-grandmother, the mother, the brother, and all the other characters from all the other books in this series. Frankly, I found all the references to past romances a bit annoying (and I've read a couple of the other books in the series.)

The romance itself between Cord and Sharon Lynn is pleasant enough. Cord falls for Sharon Lynn that first night but she is understandably more hesitant about becoming involved with another man. Yet, Cord is such an absolutely perfect cowboy romance hero, that it's hard to imagine that she'll resist too hard or too long.

I must admit to a bit of puzzlement as to why Silhouette chose to release The Unclaimed Baby as a single title, rather than as part of a series. It may be slightly longer, but in structure, plot and texture, this particular book seems to fit better into the category model.

Still, The Unclaimed Baby is a pleasant enough read and is undoubtedly a must for those who have read and enjoyed the previous entries into the "And Baby Makes Three" series.

--Jean Mason


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