The Baby Farm
This book is a great example of how a bad choice for a cover blurb can spoil a book for some readers. The blurb on the front cover of The Baby Farm gives away an important plot point – one that is hinted at but not revealed until many pages into the book. Readers who don’t like spoilers will be upset at the publisher for taking away an important surprise.
Emma Watson is a midwife in Shelter, a town in the hills of Appalachia. Her life has just taken a turn for the worse. Her violent brother has escaped prison, her former high school sweetheart keeps trying to convince her that they should become an item again, and she is losing some of her clients to Griff Cusak, the new doctor in town. As if that weren’t enough, one of her clients has disappeared – possibly while in labor.
Emma and Griff clash over differing medical philosophies, but they soon find themselves drawn to each other. Mysterious events keep occurring around Emma. Fiercely independent, Emma tries to deal with those events without outside help even as she tries to track down her missing client. Meanwhile, unknown to everyone else, an outsider is coming to Shelter with revenge on her mind.
Though she grew up in Shelter, Emma is something of an outsider, not only because of her expertise but also because her father and brother are convicted murderers. She has learned to fend for herself. However, Emma’s independence is too extreme at times – why does she decide not to tell anyone that her friend tried to kill her? Because of her independent spirit, I was surprised at her reaction when she learned Griff’s big secret – at first, she accepted someone else’s opinion about it instead of looking for the real story.
In Shelter, Griff is even more of an outsider than Emma. The culture into which he has been thrown is alien to him. At first, he has a hard time adjusting, and he seems bound by medical tradition. Readers will warm up to him once he learns to accept Emma as a skilled practitioner rather than a crackpot. But most readers will be upset when he temporarily leaves Shelter in an attempt to win back his good name, just when Emma needs him the most.
The relationship between Emma and Griff is stronger than that found in many romantic suspense novels. Sexual tension runs at a high level. Yet the relationship develops at an erratic pace. It moves a little too quickly from a single kiss to a make-out session that leads nowhere. After that, the relationship runs into some speed bumps, in part because Emma finds it hard to trust Griff.
The residents of this small town are sharply drawn. You won’t find The Beverly Hillbillies here; instead, the portrayals are realistic and not “prettied up.” Shelter may be a small town, but it harbors more than its share of criminals. Everyone has something to hide, and that drives the plot along. Which residents are dangerous, and which ones are merely red herrings? Sometimes, the coincidences mar the believability. For example, one character just happens to overhear people in a restaurant discussing crucial information.
If you like romantic suspense and don’t mind a few plot coincidences, you’ll enjoy this novel. It has an intriguing story line that pulls you right along, and the unusual setting adds to the suspense. On the other hand, if you prefer romantic suspense with more romance than suspense, look elsewhere. Also, if you’re pregnant or a new mother, you’ll probably want to avoid this book!