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In the Family Way
by Marie Ferrarella
(Silhouette, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-48364-3
****
Heartwarming. That's the way I have described every book by Marie Ferrarella that I have read. In the Family Way engenders in me the same warm, fuzzy feeling that I have come to expect from her books.

Dana Morrow has returned home to the small California town where she grew up to try to put her life back together. She has lots to worry about: a five year old niece who was orphaned in a car accident six months earlier; an estranged father who has suffered a stroke and has Parkinson's disease; and an unexpected and unwelcome pregnancy.

The last thing Dana wants or needs is a new relationship. She doesn't trust her judgment. Steven, the man she thought loved her, proved to be a selfish and unfaithful SOB. And what man would want a woman pregnant with another man's child?

Worried about her niece Mollie's listlessness, Dana makes an appointment with Dr. Rafe Saldana, the town's most popular pediatrician. Mollie falls in love with Dr. Rafe; Dana, prickly and defensive, is not so impressed. However, when Mollie has an attack of croup and Dr. Rafe demonstrates both his dedication and his kindness, Dana starts to reevaluate her opinion.

Rafe had married and lost his childhood sweetheart. Since her death, he has devoted himself to his profession, despite the fact that half the women in town would just love to provide consolation. He has a friendly relationship with a hospital researcher, but has avoided commitments. When he finds himself attracted to a woman who is the antithesis of his first love, he doesn't quite know what to make of it.

In addition to the romance, Ferrarella has provided a subplot centering on Dana's reconciliation with her father. Paul Morrow is a famous defense attorney who had devoted himself to his career and neglected his wife and daughters. He had high expectations of his children, and when they disappointed him (Dana by her rebellious behavior; Meghan by marrying "beneath" her) he had cut them off. Now, facing his own mortality, Morrow has to deal with the fact that Dana has come home to attempt a reconciliation. Is he indeed able to change, to admit that he needs people and not just power and position?

The romance between Dana and Rafe follows a predictable but enjoyable path. Yes, there is a strong physical attraction, but there is also an underlying respect and admiration. And, of course, there is the problem of the pregnancy. But Rafe's character makes his ultimate response completely believable. Nobody does gamma heroes better than Ferrarella, in my opinion.

So, if you are looking for a pleasant contemporary romance that will warm the cockles of your heart, you just might want to pick up In the Family Way.

--Jean Mason


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