Maria's Reviews > Nobody's Baby but Mine

Nobody's Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
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's review
Feb 22, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: romance

I hate starting my reviews with qualifiers, but I feel the need to make the following statement: Although my review for this book will sound less than positive, I liked SEP's writing style enough to read this book in one sitting. The dialogue was well written, if sometimes ridiculously inane, and the result was interesting enough to keep reading.

Jane Darlington is a brilliant physicist; she's a child prodigy whose smarts have always put her at the wrong ends of her peers' developmental curves and she has reached her mid-thirties without experiencing love or any meaningful physical relationships. She figures if she can't have a partner, then she might as well have a baby. But she doesn't want just any baby: She wants a 'normal' baby with average intelligence. A child that won't be ostracized in school because of an exceptional IQ and feel as outcast as she has. This means she can't 'risk' a sperm bank because medical students donate, and she might accidentally get 'smart' sperm. Fate then steps in to provide a helping hand: A helpful neighbor makes her an offer she can't refuse in the form of a sexual liaison with an emotionally stunted star quarterback for an NFL team who seems to have more brawn than brains.

But Cal Bonner is far smarter than he lets on (though not smart enough to see through Jane's clumsy and ridiculous attempts to sleep with him). He allows himself to be seduced and, although he knows something is very wrong, he's intrigued enough to keep playing along. Then the helpful neighbor turns out to have an agenda of her own. She reveals the scheme and, in true neanderthal fashion, the hero drags the heroine to the country by her hair and forces a quickie marriage in order to ensure the child is legitimate and he has parental rights. The remainder of the story is a blend of Shakespearean comedy (tragedy?) straight from Taming of the Shrew with a touch of All's Well that Ends Well, and the whole thing reads a bit like a problem play.

I think what bothered me most about Jane and Cal is the extent to which they are caricatures. Jane's desire to have a 'normal' child is obsessive to the point of irrationality, and the resulting shift in this character's moral compass is correspondingly extreme and ridiculous. She might be a brilliant physicist, but a geneticist she is not, or she might actually give some thought to how her non-brilliant parents managed to create her brilliant self. Yes, I said "brilliant" four times in that last sentence. It's a really, really, really, big deal in the story. Cal is also an extreme: While Jane is trying to create a family, he is trying to do everything he can to defy age, including dating vapid, undemanding, nonthreatening women who are all under twenty-five. Never mind the fact that he is thirty-six and approaching retirement from football--he's not getting older, he's not, he's not, he's not! This is a really, really, really, big deal in the book, too. This is especially important because it is this willful immaturity that leads to the oversight that ultimately truly threatens Cal and Jane's relationship. Just ignore Cal's strong and supportive family environment, how he has no good reason for his debilitating insecurity, and that his behavior seems more extreme and irrational than Jane's. They're clearly damaged goods who are destined to complete each other and it's all a little bit trite and predictable.

What saves this book is the supporting cast. Cal's parents appear perfect on the surface, but their history is deeply tainted by old hurts that have never healed, and there is a sweetness about how they manage to rewrite their love story in a way that makes sense. Kevin Taylor is the young quarterback waiting in the wings, trying to prove himself, but always in Cal's shadow, silently hoping for his mentor's support. Annie Glide is Cal's maternal grandmother, and the wise old woman who seems cracked, but is the glue that keeps her family from unraveling. This character is the grand schemer, and her reward is in seeing her as healthy and whole as she can lovingly manipulate them into being.

My final analysis is that I like this story enough to keep reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her plot is thin at points, but as a complete work the novel is entertaining and worth recommending to other's who like contemporary romance; just be prepared to accept that these thirty-somethings have the tendency to act like children!

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