Desert Isle Keeper
One thing that I am learning slowly, painfully slowly, as both a reader and reviewer, is not to limit myself. When I say “I don’t like (insert type) romances,” this pronouncement invariably comes back to bite me in the butt. I used to say I didn’t like “secret baby” romances, but then I read Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann and the very enjoyable Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson. Once I thought I would not find disabled heroes appealing. Then A Man Like Mac came along. I’ve learned that great reads can be found in all the sub-genres of romance, but I have to be willing to be open to different kinds of stories.
Whose Baby? is a mixture of two plot types: the secret baby plot and the marriage of convenience plot. It has an unlikely, improbable premise, but don’t let that put you off. In Janice Kay Johnson’s capable hands, the unlikely premise is completely obscured by darned good storytelling.
Single mother Lynn Chanak comes face to face with every mother’s worst nightmare. She finds out that her darling daughter Shelly, the absolute center of her life, is biologically not her child at all. The hospital made a mistake, and her baby was switched at birth. She has been raising a stranger’s child for the past three years.
Adam Landry is equally mortified when he finds out about this mistake because it means that his beloved Rose, the only thing he has to remember his late wife by, is also not his child. When the two come together, they are angry and resentful and very unsure of how to deal with the problem. Neither of them wants to lose custody of the children they have been raising, but they both want to get to know their biological children. Out of this complicated situation they arrive at a tentative solution: they will arrange a visitation schedule. But this schedule throws them into each other’s company quite frequently, and they discover that they genuinely like and respect each other. Would their marriage be the best answer for all of them?
I know, I know: it sounds unlikely and contrived. How many babies get switched at birth? And how likely is it that the parents would be in a position to make this kind of arrangement? But Johnson weaves the story in such a way that it never feels false or manipulated. Both Lynn and Adam are completely torn about what to do for Rose and Shelly. They know that, for better or worse, they are stuck with each other anyway, so perhaps a formalization of their relationship wouldn’t be the wrong thing to do. They are both so thoughtful and considerate that I never doubted that their relationship was meant to be.
The best part of this book was watching Adam and Lynn make their decisions about what to do about their daughters, what to do about their living arrangements, and what to do about their feelings for each other. They decide like normal people do, and they are both so careful and honorable that I couldn’t help but care about them. And Johnson draws them as more than stereotypes, more than just the sum of their parts, not just a grieving widower and a single mother. Adam could have easily come across as a stereotype – the rich stockbroker – but his love for Rose and his insecurities about his parenting make him fully human. And Lynn might have been drawn as just another warm fuzzy mom type, but she’s smart – and runs her own business too. Even the kids seem real, and that’s hard to do.
I’m not sure why Whose Baby? didn’t get more notice last year. Somehow it got lost in the shuffle. I heard nothing about it until my sister recommended it to me. But I would have missed a good story if I’d blown her recommendation off or had been put off by the unlikely-sounding plot. And that would have been a shame because this was a great read. I highly recommend it.