Dad for Life

  First Come Twins

Then Comes Baby
by Helen Brenna
(Harl. Super Rom. # 1606, $5.50, PG) ISBN 978-0373-71606-7
This is a nice category to end the year and it isn’t even a Christmas story.  Then Comes Baby has a lot of predictability yet is heartwarming, interesting and well written.

Jamis Quinn writes horror stories…they just come to him and off he goes.  He feels he has control of those characters and often gives people the death he thinks they deserve.  In real life, he is a recluse and not just a run of the mill recluse. He lives on Mirabelle Island in the middle of Lake Superior year round. In the summer, he has to fight the tourists but in the winter, he is one of a handful of year round residents. In addition, he lives on the far side of the island, isolated from everyone except for one Victorian house owned by a little old lady, who is only in residence in the summer. Jamis has been here essentially alone for over four years, ever since he buried his two children and almost ex-wife, who died in a car accident in which he was driving and from which he survived with only minor injuries. 

He just finished a book and is ready to start another, with a deadline at the end of the summer.  That deadline will be hard to make, however, due to the distractions that just moved in next door. Natalie Steeger inherited her grandmother’s homes on Mirabelle and in Minneapolis. Her grandmother realized that Natalie needed an outlet for her caring and loving nature. Natalie had been adopted when she was ten years old after her parents left her. Her grandmother saw that Natalie needed to have a family and give back for the many blessings she had received once she had left the foster care system. Natalie is a social services worker, but with her inheritance, she is opening a camp for kids in the summer and using the house on Mirabelle as her location.

Moving in with Natalie are two teens (who will act as counselors). Galen is a sullen 16-year-old whose mother is a alcoholic and who often kicks him out. Sam is a long-term foster child who is 15 going on 30 with little self-esteem. The other kids have equally sad stories. Natalie chose them to help them see that there is hope and their happiness depends on their inner self, not the outside world. 

As one might imagine, Natalie’s do-gooder heart and outgoing nature collides with Jamis’ shrunken heart and need for quiet. These two interact with heat, heart and at times, anger and stubbornness. But they are well-matched. They really are two broken people who need to help heal the other. Natalie is fearful of commitment for fear that others will always let her down; while Jamis is afraid to love for fear he will care too much and lose again. It is a familiar story but one done with great passion and lots of humor and sarcasm. This is an adult relationship that is extremely fun to read.

The kids add to the tale and help to heal these two adults while getting healed themselves. Again, their stories are familiar, and often extremely predictable. But the kids’ characters have depth and they are an interesting group to get to know. There are some tender scenes with Jamis and one little girl who reminds him of the child he lost. Jamis also connects with Galen and this interaction was a strong point to the story, even if it felt forced at first. 

The downside, if one can consider it that, is how completely Jamis was supposed to have isolated his feelings and his life from the rest of the world. The only people in his life were his agent and his attorney. There is one islander who he connected to, but even that was more for humor and then tenderness rather than a real personal connection. There was history with his family that was never explained, leaving one to wonder just how people in his life let him get to this hermit like man that he started off as in the story. 

Then Comes Baby is a good story though and more than makes up for that deficiency.  I liked both Jamis and Natalie, making it easy to root for them to work it out. I liked the kids, making their happy ending even more satisfying. And I liked the premise of the story, and the little island that is the setting for several of Brenna’s tales.  That adds up to a recommendation that you seek this out and enjoy. 

--Shirley Lyons 

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