Daddy by Choice starts out with an encounter between former lovers that had me wincing on behalf of both parties. This beginning held out great promise for the story that followed and, to some extent, the story delivered. There were, however, two elements that detracted from my initial enthusiasm.
Madelyn Sue Smith was seventeen when the rodeo hit Whiskey Bend, Texas, bringing with it 18-year-old Luke Jarrod. The attraction was instant, and by the time the rodeo was over, Madelyn was pregnant with Luke’s baby. They promised to correspond regularly, but Luke was only 18 and following the rodeo circuit. He stopped writing. By the time Maddie’s letter telling him she was pregnant caught up to him, it was too late…Maddie had already been pressured into giving their baby up for adoption.
Fast-forward 22 years. After the difficult birth of her baby, four specialists told Maddie that she would probably never conceive again. She married a man who didn’t want children, a man who walked out on her as soon as she told him that the unexpected had happened: she was pregnant for a second time at age 39.
When Maddie was five months along, her family doctor -- the same general practitioner who delivered her first baby -- told her that he had found a serious problem that might cause her to lose the baby. Guess what doctor, practicing in Portland, Oregon, he recommended as the national expert on her problem?
So imagine yourself getting ready for an internal exam by an obstetrician who also happens to be the man who loved you and left you pregnant 22 years ago. You haven’t seen him since but you still have strong…and very mixed…feelings toward him. Now you must let him perform a procedure that would feel like a violation of your privacy no matter how professional and how impersonal the physician performing it. Let me tell you, wondering how these two would negotiate that session had me turning the pages!
Other scenes did not work as well. One, early in the book, had Luke sharing not only Maddie’s hotel room but also her bed long before they were ready to consider becoming intimate. The excuse given was that Luke was too exhausted and in too much pain from an old rodeo injury to drive home. Excellent reasons for not driving home -- but not so good for sharing a bed. Hotels are in the bed rental business, after all.
Some other scenes felt like padding and a chance for Riggs to include at least seven characters
-- and a passel of young 'uns -- from earlier “Maternity Row” books. While I know that readers already familiar with these characters are probably happy to renew their acquaintance, most of them are not fleshed out enough to interest a reader new to the series. Only two of the seven made an impression on me: Boyd McAuley, Luke’s neurosurgeon, and Prudy Randolph, one of the first people Maddie meets after she gets to Portland. The rest remained an undistinguished crowd.
Riggs writes a competent, unobtrusive prose. I was particularly charmed by Luke’s West Texas drawl and his Texan turns of phrase. These stylistic strengths, combined with a plot involving two characters with convincing obstacles to overcome, should guarantee the reader a pleasant reading experience. Readers familiar with Paula Detmer Riggs’ Maternity Row series should enjoy Daddy by Choice even more.
--Nancy J. Silberstein