Sunday, December 31, 2006

Somebody's Baby, by Tara Taylor Quinn

SOMEBODY'S BABY (Harlequin SuperRomance #1272)
Tara Taylor Quinn
ISBN: 0-373-71272-3
Book #06-170

Caroline Prater, widow of six months, is pregnant. Four weeks pregnant. After seeking out John Strickland because he knows her sister, from whom Caroline was separated at birth and put up for adoption, Caroline's loneliness led her to a one-night stand with the well-known architect. Now she has several reasons to go to Shelter Valley, Arizona, and make a new life for herself. Putting her small-town Kentucky roots behind her, Caroline enrolls in college and goes to tell John about their baby.

John is attracted to Caroline almost against his will. Shocked and dismayed at her announcement, John vows to do the right thing by this woman and their child, but his resolve is tinged with disappointment because he was never able to have a child with Meredith, the wife he lost in a car accident six years earlier. John is impressed by the contradictions that are Caroline. Small-town woman she may be, but her computer skills are excellent, and she has made it her business to learn a great deal. Still, John can't help puzzling over Caroline's decision to move to Shelter Valley, because he's certain she's keeping something from him. He's also shocked to learn that Caroline has a teenaged son enrolled at Harvard, yet another seeming dichotomy in the young widow's life.

Tara Taylor Quinn's Shelter Valley stories are very popular, and deservedly so. Her books are taut and well-written, deeply emotional, and thoroughly interconnected, although each stands alone as a story in its own right. Caroline is one of her more admirable heroines, although the very qualities Quinn wants us to admire about Caroline are a bit problematical. Someone as internet savvy as Caroline and as dedicated to researching topics that interest her would not have the blind spots Caroline does, such as not knowing whether to order red or white wine because she supposedly doesn't know the difference. Between TV and Caroline's voracious appetite for knowledge, this small detail was hugely unbelievable. It was rather incongruous, also, that Caroline asked what model of car John drove; one would think a Cadillac would have a logo on the glove compartment. Also, although Quinn is trying to convey Caroline's pride and poverty by having her wearing clothes made out of old curtains and being unable to afford cute new clothes, it's hard to accept that there wasn't a Walmart within 100 miles of Caroline's hometown--or Shelter Valley, for that matter. Brand-new clothes at Walmart are often cheaper than seconds or discounts at outlet stores.

Other than those quibbles, however, Caroline is a straightforward, honorable woman with a deep-seated integrity and stalwart loyalty to those she loves. John is an endearing hero, sharing lengthy conversations with his dead wife, and panicking over the possibility of losing a child who hasn't even been born yet. Quinn makes good use of locale in her story, too--readers will enjoy visiting such sites as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with John and Caroline. Ms. Quinn does a nice job of recapping the relationships of everyone in Shelter Valley without making new readers feel like strangers at a family reunion. SOMEBODY'S BABY is a solid offering from an author whose ability to write deeply touching stories remains as strong as ever. Readers are likely to enjoy another visit with their old friends in Shelter Valley.

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