Expecting Brand’s Baby by Emilie Rose
(Silh. Desire # 1463, $4.25, R) ISBN 0-373-76463-4
Desire debut author Emilie Rose has written an entertaining sensuous romance in Expecting Brand’s Baby. There are a lot of subplots within the plot, but she does a nice job of keeping the action moving and blending the story together.

Both main characters have had things in their past that have shaped them. Refreshingly, while explaining some of their behavior, neither the hero nor the heroine is so embroiled in their issues that they forget to live. I wish more authors would learn from this.

Toni Swenson has graduated from veterinary school and is ready to go back to her grandfather’s ranch to work. However, her grandfather’s will leaves the ranch to her MALE husband or offspring…of which she has none. Her plan is to get pregnant, (hopefully) give birth to a boy and he will inherit. She doesn’t want to marry, especially having experienced both her controlling grandfather and her abusive father.

She heads to the rodeo, hoping to find a cowboy who is one of those love ‘em and leave ‘em types. What she finds instead is an instant attraction to Brandon Lander, rodeo champion bullrider. Brand finds himself attracted to her and they end up in bed, with a whole row of condoms. But Toni and Brand use them all and then some.

Toni awakens and takes off. Brand awakens and realizes what has happened. He hires an investigator and tracks her down, finding it hard to believe that she would purposefully get pregnant. Once he finds her, sparks fly. I hate to ruin it, so suffice it to say, one thing leads to another and they marry to keep the ranch. Now the question is, what kind of marriage will they have?

Brand struggles with his feelings of being coerced, and of lust and caring, while trying to understand this complex woman. Brand’s views were warped by a mother who left when he was only eight, leaving his father heartbroken. Brand helped to raise his younger brother. A sister-in-law who first married, then divorced his brother, taking all his money just added to Brand’s issues about marriage.

Toni is a well defined woman, who may not make all the best choices, but who has learned she can depend on herself and that she can control her own destiny. Although raised by an abuser, she is quick to recognize that Brand is not like her father. She is not afraid to stand up for herself when she thinks he is being high-handed. What a nice change from cringing, more-talk-than-action heroines.

There are a host of secondary characters that add to the flavor of the ranch and the story, without being meddlesome or distracting. In fact, the only thing I found minimally distracting was the length of time it took them both to realize they were in love. The sexual tension builds nicely, and is used to cement their relationship. As Brand put it at one point, “We have to do something right”. Right they do…and often, too.

Another refreshing note from this author is her penchant for discovering ways for the characters to grow in their love without relying just on bedroom Olympics. As hot as the sex is, the real sense of love they feel stems from their caring, their discovery of each other’s secrets and their willingness to slowly build their trust in each other.

Keep your eyes on Emilie Rose. If Expecting Brand’s Baby is any indication, there will be more four and five heart reviews in her future.

--Shirley Lyons

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