In Double Play, the third book in Maggie Wells’ Love Games series, Professor Avery Preston wants a baby, not a relationship, so she turns to a sperm bank. But a data leak at the clinic reveals that her baby’s father is not only someone she knows, but someone she knows intimately: Dominic Mann, baseball coach at the same university where Avery teaches women’s studies and literature, and, months before her insemination, Avery’s one-night stand. She feels compelled to tell him about the baby, and is attracted enough to resume their sexual relationship, but she doesn’t want him in her life or the baby’s permanently.
This book was derailed by the fact that I couldn’t stand Avery. Yes, her pregnancy excuses some of her volatility, and I enjoyed how the physical effects of it are described authentically. However, her treatment of Dom as, as he describes it, “some kind of sex toy for her to pick up and put down whenever she felt like it” is dehumanizing and just plain lousy. It’s not one of those stories where the hero and the heroine tell themselves they will have sex without forming an attachment and then fall in love. It’s a story where they tell themselves they won’t develop feelings, and then Avery doesn’t. She shows no affection for Dom, no empathy for him as a human being facing a bewildering situation, but she’s perfectly willing to use him for orgasms before she kicks him out of bed. The woman won’t even let him keep a toothbrush at her house. What kind of a romance novel is it if the heroine doesn’t seem to fall in love?
And her treatment of Dom only scratches the surface of her issues. Her feminism is riddled with stereotypes. She asserts, for instance, that men are “simple creatures when it came to physical impulse,” and that Latin lovers aren’t “much for a woman taking the lead.” She also wants her child to be a daughter because she’d have no idea what to do with a boy, a deeply retrograde sentiment from a woman who’s supposed to be a professor of Women’s Studies. (And yes, I’d be fine with a professor having a retrograde sentiment – IF she thought about it! But Avery is the queen of the unexamined life.) When Avery tells a friend struggling with fertility problems to think about adoption or fostering, I just wanted to slap her.
I liked Dominic, but he is still reeling from losing his wife and quite clearly hasn’t addressed many issues lingering from his marriage. He doesn’t seem ready for a relationship, let alone whatever it is he has with Avery. She isn’t ready to be a mother, although she thinks she is; he’s not ready to be a father and knows he isn’t, and of the two I prefer the latter. Both, however, make me concerned for the baby’s welfare.
Double Play is the third book in a series, and it is full of spoilers for previous books, do I definitely don’t recommend reading it first. In fact, unlike the first book (Love Games, which I DIK’d), I’m sorry to say I don’t recommend reading it at all. But when the problems are, as in this book, all in the characters, it makes me not give up on authors the way I do when problems lie elsewhere. Maggie Wells can write, and she can write characters who don’t come across as narcissists. I look forward to reading more of those.