Duets 51

Duets 68

The Misconception by Darlene Gardner
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52481-3
Take a big, strong, handsome man and then give him some wonderful qualities, including cheerfulness, tenderness, compassion, dependability, responsibility and faithfulness. Place him in a book with a prickly heroine and plenty of humor and you can’t go wrong. Author Darlene Gardner must have been thinking precisely this when she came up with Jax Jackson. In addition, a creative and fresh approach to voluntary single motherhood coupled with some perfect comic touches makes The Misconception my favorite romantic comedy of the year so far.

Biologist Marietta Dalrymple is planning her future, and it includes a baby. As a scientist, she approaches her problem systematically and carefully. She wants a child, but she believes that maintaining a relationship with a man is not possible. Her limited exposure to men, including her own father, has proven them to be unreliable. Men simply are not capable of monogamy, she reasons. She has published material on the subject, comparing men to animals in the wild who instinctively strive only to procreate and never to stay and nurture. But Marietta wants to be a mother in the worst way. She’s ready to go to extremes to achieve her goal, and repugnant as it might be, she will improve her chances of success by conceiving the old-fashioned way.

Not only will she become pregnant, but she will insure that her child will be remarkably gifted. After advertising in “a magazine for people with superior intelligence” for a “sperm supplier” as she prefers to call him, Marietta has painstakingly narrowed the field of respondents and selected the perfect man: Harold McGinty. She has arranged it all under an assumed name and left nothing to chance, and now only the deed itself remains to be done.

Harold has every intention of catching the plane to Washington D.C. He is to fly there and meet the woman named “Rhea” who is willing to pay a lot of money for a dip from his superior gene pool. He had jumped at the chance to earn some extra money - it means a new telescope for him! Only Harold doesn’t feel very superior to anyone. His physical appearance has been found wanting in the past, and he hasn’t had much luck in the sexual prowess department. The spirit is willing but the flesh is sometimes - not. Sitting at the airport with a raging case of cold feet, Harold runs into a classmate of his from high school, Cash ‘Jax’ Jackson. Jax is about to board the same plane to D.C.

Always friendly and outgoing, Jax has a gift for small talk. He is also an imposing physical specimen and chick magnet. Harold doesn’t dispute Jax’s assumption that he has become a very successful research biochemist, although the ‘very successful’ part is not quite true. Jax is vague about his own career, saying that he is an entrepreneur of sorts, and is traveling for business reasons. Harold tells Jax he is flying to meet a blind date. As the flight prepares for take-off however, Harold does likewise, telling Jax he has changed his travel plans. Because Jax feels badly for the woman who will be disappointed when her date fails to show, he agrees to tell ‘Rhea’ that Harold isn’t coming.

Arriving in D.C., Jax meets Marietta, who is holding up a sign with Harold’s name on it. This is where the fun begins, since of course she assumes him to be Harold. Feeling sorry for her, Jax plays along and gets much more than a blind date in the process.

Marietta is annoyed by everything about Jax, including his appearance, his knack for telling a lot of corny jokes, and his general affability in the face of her nervous, businesslike reserve. Jax is inexplicably attracted to mousy Marietta even though he can’t understand why she is behaving so strangely. She doesn’t seem to like him, but wants to have sex with him. He unwittingly ends up helping her carry out her plan to conceive but neither of them really knows who the other is. When she leaves him and even pays him for services rendered, he is really confused.

What follows is fast-paced and wonderful. This plot is so well thought out that it is really a pleasure to sit back for the ride. Jax finds out that Marietta is pregnant, of course, and reacts in a way sure to spoil everything for her. Jax takes fatherhood very seriously because he grew up fatherless himself. He goes after Marietta in a determined way that is very endearing. His droll and guileless personality is a perfect foil for her serious, suspicious one. He would be very good for her, and everyone thinks so, including her sister Tracy and brother-in-law Ryan, who are struggling with their own relationship. For her part, Marietta is very drawn to the father of her child, although she tries hard to resist him.

The question of Jax’s occupation is glossed over so smoothly by the author in the first part of the book that it is easy to assume it is not even relevant to the story. Although she gives a few hints about his true profession, it is not disclosed until halfway through the book. This disclosure provides a twist that is so perfectly ironic that I actually guffawed when I read it.

As the love relationship between Jax and Marietta develops, readers can really buy into their story despite the somewhat outrageous beginnings. Consider this advice and pick up a copy of The Misconception. It is a treat from start to finish, and is worthy of the keeper shelf. Oh, and if you ever need a supply of terrible jokes, you need look no further! Here’s hoping Ms. Gardner will provide readers with more of her type of romance, and the sooner the better.

--Deann Carpenter

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