The Baby Magnet

 
A Gleam in his Eye by Terry Essig
(Silh. Rom. #1472, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-19472-2
***
For the first time ever Hunter Pace is looking for a woman who is ready to settle down and be a mom. Actually he has the kids all ready to foist on - uh, share with her. He is the guardian of his four lively nieces and nephews and he needs help fast. Johanna Durbin, the kids’ swim coach, looks like the answer to his prayers. She’s good with kids and sexy besides.

Johanna is finally ready to stop being surrogate mom to her younger siblings and go live it up. Hunter Pace looks really good and she thinks it’s lucky he had temporary custody of his niece and nephews since that’s how she got to meet him. Not that she wants to take on any more kids for a long, long time.

Then both their plans for each other cave in. Johanna finds out Hunter is really hot but he comes with the kids permanently. Or at least they’ll be around for the next fifteen to eighteen years. Then she finds out her widowed mother is pregnant.

Hunter discovers Johanna wants out of the kid business. Even worse, he discovers he really wants her to be happy. There is a nice scene where Hunter is forced to talk about responsible sex to Johanna’s teenaged brothers. As he does, he realizes what he should and shouldn’t be doing for Johanna. He would be using her if all he wanted was a nanny/sex partner - but he also realizes he wants more from and for her.

The book doesn’t minimize the complications children put in anyone’s love life. In fact, it doesn’t minimize the problems they put in one’s life (since it’s hard to have any life at all, much less a love life, with about ten of them around.) Johanna’s relationship with her mother is nicely drawn as Johanna realizes her mother is a human being as well as an overworked mom and that her mother had different life plans when she was Johanna’s age.

I was interested to see that mom’s pregnancy complication wasn’t resolved. (A series lurks here somewhere, maybe?) Mom was the most problematic character in the book - why did she apparently dump all the child care work on Johanna then come off sounding sensible when talking to her oldest about sex and life? Maybe it was just Johanna’s rather immature view that she got all the sibling work while mom went out to make a living, but it seems supported by the evidence in the story.

Despite all the problems, family life with kids begins to grow on Hunter and Johanna. Their romance doesn’t take a back seat to the kids but somehow manages to co-exist along with them. Hunter learns to parent and Johanna learns that she wants to be included with the gang rather than live alone. And both of them learn to grow up more.

I liked the book. While Johanna learns the most of the two, Hunter seems like a normal, well-meaning guy who also learns a lot from his new status as dad at age twenty six. (I may have missed it, but it seems as though there are no grandparents to provide wisdom, either. At least none are there to help out.) Both of them do pretty well with what they have. They need each other and, better yet, they deserve each other by the end of the story.

--Irene Williams


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