New Faces 1:
An interview with Shelley Cooper

Major Dad by Shelley Cooper
(Silh. Int. Mom. #876, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07876-5
Major Dad marks the debut of new romance author Shelley Cooper. She's tackled a tough subject for her first book; several of them, in fact, and for the most part, this story works very well.

Brady Ross is returning from three and a half years in captivity in a Central American prison. He is stunned to find a very old letter from a one-night lover informing him that he will be a father. The letter is over three years old. Brady sets out to find the daughter he never knew he had.

What he finds is Haven Adams, proprietor of a day-care center. Haven is skeptical of Brady's claim. Surprise "fathers" have been crawling out of the woodwork ever since the papers announced that Anna is the sole heir to a sizeable fortune. Brady's letter soon convinces Haven that he might, indeed, be Anna's father. Haven recognizes the writing as that of her beloved friend, Melinda. Melinda who died soon after giving birth. Melinda who named Haven the guardian of her infant daughter, Anna.

Brady refuses to explain where he's been for three years, leaving Haven exasperated and demanding a blood test. When a pair of greedy relatives show up, vowing to fight for Anna's custody, Brady proposes a solution. He and Haven should marry. That way the custody claim will be dropped, since paternity tests will show that Brady is the father. Haven reluctantly agrees and the wheels of a marriage of convenience are set in motion.

Haven, the product of a loveless childhood, was easy to empathize with. She wastes no time in histrionics, thank goodness, and her fierce desire to remain in Anna's life rings true. The author gives readers a chance to see Haven as Anna's mother figure. Her attraction to Brady also felt authentic, as did most of the dialogue between them.

Brady presented some problems to me as a reader. I had a hard time accepting that a man who had been tortured and locked in captivity for over three years wouldn't be extremely haunted by the event. Brady seemed relatively unaffected. Readers aren't inside his head enough to sense any particular emotions over his captivity, and in fact, his refusal to talk about it didn't make all that much sense. He spends no time dealing with any aftermath, be it rage or anguish or whatever, so the whole captivity thing ended up feeling like an excuse to have him out of the picture for three years.

And while this is certainly a strong first effort, I felt there were too many plot elements to make it a cohesive read. Two rotten childhoods, a captivity backstory, greedy relatives, an orphaned child, three lost kittens, and a small secondary romance were a bit much to handle. And that's not counting the main romance. It's much to the author's credit that she made it all sound intelligent.

But overall, Shelly Cooper has crafted an interesting story. Besides the realistic dialogue, the pacing is brisk - not a sagging middle in sight. The kittens' names were a hoot. Little Anna, with her on-again, off-again baby talk, will enchant readers who like small tots in their plots. And don't assume you have the ending all figured out - there's a surprise in the works. It certainly threw me.

Major Dad is a major first step. Keep an eye out for Shelley Cooper.

--Cathy Sova

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