Debra Salonen – “Baby by Contract”

31 Aug

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Super Romance, 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: It’s the first part in a series I want to read the second one, His Brother’s Secret, and because I prefer to read series in order and this one was still available, I bought it.

The back blurb:
“Libby McGannon wants a baby. That’s why she’s offering a share in her family gold mine to the right sperm doner. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when gorgeous Hollywood actor Cooper Lindstrom blows into town.

The no-nonsense postmaster of Sentinel Pass wants only one thing from Cooper, and she’s got a mother lode of rules to go with it. Too bad Cooper’s never played by the rules… especially when it comes to love. Now he wants a stake in his child’s future – a future that includes Libby.

But when his true reason for being in town is revealed, Cooper’s got some explaining to do. Can he make Libby trust him again…make her see that it’s never to late to be the person you were meant to be?”

Usually, I don’t go for novels with babies or children. In fact, having one on the cover or mentioned in the summary often means I’ll pass. But thanks to my compulsion to read series, if possible, in order, I ended up with Debra Salonen’s Baby by Contract. It’s also the first novel I read in Harleqin’s Super Romance line, I think.

Libby McGannon is postmaster in Sentinel Pass, a very small town in the Black Hills, and she wants a baby. Desperately. So desperately, that she posts an ad on the Internet looking for potential sperm doners because as much as she wants a baby, she doesn’t want a man in her live. Cooper is a famous Hollywood actor whose career is on a downward swing. On top of that, his beloved mother died recently and after her death he discovers that she had a serious gambling problem. So serious, that he’s now in severe financial trouble and a violent bookie is after him to pay his mother’s gambling debts. Libby’s ad offering a share in a gold mine in exchange for sperm seems like the answer to his prayers. It also would mean getting away from all that reminds him of his mother and the bookie.

So all is to everyone’s benefit: Libby wants a sperm doner in exchange for money, Cooper wants (and needs) money and is willing to be Libby’s sperm doner. Except: 1. they fall in love; 2. Cooper has a hidden agenda.

Despite what the back blurb reads like and what you probably would expect of a story about a woman who wants a baby, this novel is more about Cooper than Libby, IMO. Come to think of it, this is probably why I enjoyed reading this much more than I expected. All his life Cooper worked, fulfilling the dreams of his mother who didn’t succeed as an actress. All his life, he loved his mother even though he recognized her faults (like always telling him that he’s more on the look side of human nature than on the brain side – she’s really nasty there). And then it turns out she gambled away all his money. It’s a “life-altering, eye-opening, icon-shattering” turn, so much so that “he could no longer say he loved his mother” (p. 8). Cooper’s the character who has things to learn in this story, most notably probably, he has to get a new self-image, one that isn’t distorted by his mother’s vicious remarks about his ability to think.

Cooper sees Libby’s ad and then comes up with the idea to turn it all into a TV series – “think The Bachelor meets Northern Exposure.” If successful, this would get him his life and his career back. So while being charmed by Libby and the town, he views all as material for the TV series. Naturally, Libby (and the town) are more than a little pissed off when they finally catch on to Cooper’s plan. It’s interesting to see Cooper turn from a person who sees everything as possible material for his TV series into a person who looks deeper than that.

I had some problems with this story. Some things didn’t add up enough for me to make sense; while I thought the idea with the internet ad quirky, I couldn’t really believe that Cooper, a celebrity, would answer it; in fact, I always have trouble to suspend my disbelief on Hollywood/movies/celebrity stuff and this element in a story seldom works for me; I didn’t understand why Cooper didn’t contact the police when the bookie started to threaten him; while it’s clear that Libby and Cooper have surprisingly much in common, I’m not really sure why they fell in love.

But on the whole, Baby by Contract is a well-told story with some witty conversations and lines, interesting but not too intruding secondary characters, and its depiction of small town life and the overall setting fits. I enjoyed the “real life viewed as TV series material” layer because I thought it added an interesting perspective on the story. And as I wrote above, I liked Baby by Contract much more than I expected. So for once, my urge to read series in order didn’t backfire. In fact, reading Baby by Contract made me actually look forward to reading His Brother’s Secret.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably not.

Grade: 4 – / 5


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