The Paternity Factor
by Caroline Cross
(Silh. Desire #1173, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-76173-2
**
This title leaves no doubt that a child will be at the heart of the Caroline Cross's storyline and, more likely than not, an adorable child. Despite creating the cutest little toddler this side of Seattle, The Paternity Factor addresses a serious issue, a parent-child relationship affected adversely by a dead spouse's infidelity.

Jessy Ross is having a quiet moment in a darkened corner at a gathering of friends, actually providing a lap for Chloe, the napping daughter of her brother's old friend, Shane Wyatt. Jessy overhears a conversation between Shane and his mother. As the busy head of a large company and the widowed father of a two-year old, he is having difficulty finding daycare.

Jessy is a sixth-grade teacher on vacation for the summer. She also happens to between condos and looking for a new place to rent. Though hesitant to reveal her presence, she speaks up offering her services as childsitter for the summer. Despite some reluctance on Shane's part to accept her offer, his mother and Jessy convince him it's a good idea, and Jessy moves into his private home on a lake in the Seattle area.

The Paternity Factor at times seemed like a fantasy where a very sweet heroine with a repressed case of hero-worship helps her hero by cooking his favorite meal, renting his favorite video, and walking around in some skimpy duds. Though it has been awhile since I was in a sixth-grade classroom, I do not think Jessy would survive long teaching sixth graders. While she was clever enough to do the meal and movies routine, and in the end she got her man, all in all she seemed nave.

At one point, as she stares out the window at sweaty, muscled Shane mowing the lawn,. Jesse is " . . . perplexed as the hollow feeling that had plagued her off and on lately returned to the pit of her stomach. She must have eaten one too many dollops of cookie dough, she decided, . . . ." Later, that "dratted hollow feeling" has returned and she wonders what is wrong. If you chalk that up to her having been in love with this guy since she was nine years old, perhaps it's understandable. However, Shane sometimes seems to suffer from the same dim bulb.

Cross's uses standard romantic-hero descriptions. Does it take a powerful flick of the wrist to lob a T-shirt, even a sweaty one, at the washing machine? And while using romantic fiction's fad phrase, the "sardonic grin," may be defensible, the description of Shane's expression as a "caustic twist to his mouth" baffled me. It was jarring enough to disrupt the flow of the narrative.

The only cute thing about this book is the babytalk. If you can stand heavy doses of "Isa goadpish, Dada," that is. For those of you who want a little primer before tackling The Paternity Factor, "goadpish" = goldfish, "wadey" = wading, "wim" = swim, "pwease" = please, "Jeddy" = Jesse. And "Dada," well, you're on your own.

Caroline Cross seems very comfortable describing adorable toddlers and less comfortable describing romantic heroes or credible heroines. If you have read and enjoyed any of her previous Silhouettes, you may enjoy this one.

--Sue Klock


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