His Secret Child
His Secret Child. Normally, if I saw a book by that title I would just walk on by thinking, “Ugh, another secret baby book.” But this book is by Beverly Barton, whose books are an automatic buy and favorite comfort read for me. So I bought it. How was it? Not great, but not too shabby either.
Caleb Bishop was an excellent pitcher in high school who had dreams of college and a major league career. Shelia Hanley was a classmate who tutored him in English so he could keep up his grades and get that scholarship. He got it and took Shelia out on the night of their graduation. They had sex – the protection failed and she became pregnant. Sheila never told Caleb he had a child and married an older man who was kind and provided a home and father for her son.
Caleb became a star pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and a celebrity star as well, often seen in the company of supermodels and media types. One day, he and a buddy and their dates were on a boat that crashed into another boat. Four people were killed and Caleb was left with a partially paralyzed arm. His career was ended and after rehabilitation he came back to his home town and met Shelia again.
Shelia is now a widow with an 11-year-old boy. Danny has inherited some of his father’s looks and his pitching ability. Caleb soon grows fond of the boy who worships him and looks to him as a father figure. Caleb slowly realizes that Shelia is and always has been the one woman he truly cared for, but he had been too selfish to admit it. Shelia has never stopped caring for Caleb, but did not tell him about his son for fear that he would not achieve his goal of baseball stardom and hate them for frustrating his dream. Now Caleb dreams of a home and family and Shelia anguishes over telling him the truth about Danny.
There is nothing new here in the way of plot, but Beverly Barton is an excellent storyteller and sketches a good picture of small-town life (especially Little League rivalries) for us. Both Caleb and Shelia are flawed but sympathetic characters who do a lot of self-searching and growing up during the course of the story.
What sets His Secret Child apart from the usual run of secret baby books is Danny. When Shelia finally tells Caleb that Danny is his son, instead of the usual angst and guilt between the hero and heroine, the story shifts to focus on Danny who has overheard his mother and father’s conversation and is deeply hurt by it. His reaction almost leads to a tragedy. Danny’s hurt is almost palpable, and I felt so sorry for this boy who was hurt by two well-meaning adults.
His Secret Child does not forge new territory in the secret baby sub-genre of romances. Frankly, I don’t see how any author could. But Barton is a crafter of good stories and excellent characters. This book was a pleasant way to pass a Sunday afternoon and only served to reinforce my feeling that in the hands of a good storyteller, even the most wheezy of plots can at least be engaging.