Desert Isle Keeper
Nobody's Baby But Mine (#18 on our Top 100 list)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on August 30, 2006
As I began reading Nobody’s Baby But Mine for the third time to prepare for writing this review, I had such a smile on my face. I knew I was in for a delightful time because this book is delectable – absolutely delectable. This type of witty repartee doesn’t get old and Susan Elizabeth Phillips certainly knows how to deliver exceptional humor with her irresistible arrogant heroes and levelheaded, good-natured heroines. As with most of this author’s books, I found myself rereading many scenes laughing again and again over the same lines.
Is there life after football? It’s a question Cal Bonner, the legendary quarterback for the Chicago Stars, refuses to think about and those close to him know to never mention it or his age. He will stick hard to the rationalization that at the young age of 36, he doesn’t suffer from injuries on the job and he can’t help it if he is only attracted to women who are, say, younger than 23. But Cal can’t get excited about much these days beyond the game and his irritability is starting to worry his teammates. Scratching their heads trying to figure how to help Cal pull out of his doldrums, a few decide he just needs a night with a really special woman (of their choosing). What better opportunity than his birthday when he wouldn’t dare refuse such a thoughtful gift?
She may have been a child prodigy and gotten her doctorate in physics before she was twenty, but all the uptight and prissy Jane Darlington can think about at the advanced age of 34 is that her biological clock is ticking and she wants a child. She sees little or no hope of marrying before that clock winds down and decides it’s time to find a donor of sorts – a sperm donor with good health, great genes, and yes, limited intelligence. After growing up as the local genius, she can’t stand the thought of her child enduring the same type of isolation and knows that only a man with a significantly lower IQ than her own will be a satisfactory candidate. And, since the donor will never know that she’s made him a father, the man’s attitude towards children is certainly not a concern. When she discovers a very scandalous opportunity to spend a night with a healthy, handsome football player who proved he wasn’t too bright when she saw him on TV, she goes for it. It’s a mystery to her why she’s chosen to be Cal Bonner’s birthday gift since Jane knows she’s not the sexy, flirty sort, but what she really can’t figure out is why these guys keep lowering her age to 28, then 26, and finally 24 before she is delivered into the arms of the famous quarterback.
Initially, I was rather unsympathetic towards a nerdy physicist with such a selfish agenda and found her deceit and exploitation of Cal a bit hard to take. But I soon realized that Cal is more than capable of taking care of himself. Once he discovers Jane’s treachery, the playing field levels because Cal is the sort of guy who does care if he has a child. Demanding retribution in a warped, yet honorable sort of way, he believes that Jane must learn the consequences of playing dirty with Cal Bonner. They will secretly marry for the sake of the child but by the time their marriage is over and he is finished with her, she will remember that no one lies to him without paying a high cost.
Cal plans to spend as little time as possible with his deceitful wife and, once the marriage ceremony is over, they’ll communicate only through their lawyers. But things don’t work smoothly in Cal’s grand plan and, before Jane knows it, she’s flying to his hometown to hide out with Cal for a few months. Forced to endure each other’s company is more than either can imagine, but this is where the real fun begins. Cal is a man who loves to argue, shout, and bluster while Jane is polite, dignified, and a complete stranger to conflict. Cal is impatient with Jane’s politeness, unimpressed by her dignity, and impervious to any offense, so Jane soon learns that nothing she does will placate Cal and she starts to wonder why she should even try. She rather likes the power she finds in not really caring what your companion thinks and begins voicing her opinion without reserve. Who could have figured that standing up to Cal was the one way to really get to him?
Although the premise of Nobody’s Baby But Mine is one of revenge, it’s not a book about anger. Cal’s well-deserved anger does hold center stage for a bit, but it soon turns into a game of witty one-upmanship between Cal and Jane. My initial unsympathetic attitude towards Jane changed to one of adoration, along with a good dose of sympathy. Cal is lovable in his own rough guy sort of way, even though he presumes to dominate Jane’s entire life – an effort that yields little success. Both also engage in a game of hide-and-seek figuring the other doesn’t deserve the entire truth. Cal hides his intelligence from Jane while she fails to acknowledge her true age to him, both situations that deliver a high level of entertainment.
The secondary characters blend effortlessly into the story. with Cal’s parents providing the secondary romance. Cal’s brother, Ethan, a man who deserved his own book, will finish his story as a secondary character in Dream a Little Dream. Cal and Jane’s story is the third in the Chicago Stars/Bonner Brothers series after It Had to Be You and Heaven, Texas and all books within the series easily qualify as stand-alone reads.
Many of today’s romantic comedies are so overdone in an attempt to be funny that they drift into ludicrous situations hoping to win on their outrageousness. Classy with the finest quality of subtle humor and nary a boring page, Nobody’s Baby But Mine puts those attempts at comedy in the shade. Nine years after its original publication, its appeal remains strong and although I don’t often reread books more than once, I’ll definitely visit Cal and Jane yet again.