"Heart of the West"

Dr. Cowboy

Snowbound Bride

 
A Baby by Chance
by Cathy Gillen Thacker
(Harlequin, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-82593-5
***
The newest entry in Harlequin’s “Heart of the West” bachelor auction series is, in addition to being a romance, a most interesting commentary on the challenges facing professional women in today’s dog-eat-dog, do-more-with-less, highly competitive economy. How does a woman combine a high-powered career with marriage and motherhood? The answer offered by the book is, sadly, an accurate one. She doesn’t. But then, does anyone, male or female, truly want to work twelve hours a day, seven days a week?

Madison Burnes thinks that this is exactly what she wants. Already an account executive at a large Dallas ad agency at thirty, Madison can make the leap to vice-president if she can just put together the perfect ad campaign for American Motor Vehicles new Ranchero truck. And she knows just who she wants to star in her ads, Chance Cartwright, horse trainer to the stars. But letters and phone calls haven’t budged the handsome rancher; he wants no part of the idea. So Madison heads to the Lost Springs Ranch Bachelor Auction to “buy” his time. Then he’ll have to listen to her pitch.

Chance isn’t too wild about appearing at the auction, but as a graduate of Lost Springs Ranch, he wants to help out. He never expects to be bought by the determined woman who won’t take no for an answer. He admits to himself that he has become very interested in this driven woman who has pursued him so assiduously, however uninterested he may be in her proposition. And when he meets her in person, she turns out to be drop dead gorgeous. So when Madison suggests that their “date” be a weekend at his ranch, he says, sure, why not?

Madison tries hard to keep her relationship with Chance on a business footing. No matter that she finds him incredibly handsome and sexy, she doesn’t mix business with pleasure. Well, truth be told, she doesn’t do pleasure at all. But before you know it, the two of them are in bed together. But then Madison tries to get their relationship back on a business footing and Chance proves recalcitrant.

However, that one passionate encounter has unexpected ramifications. Madison finds herself pregnant so Chance agrees to do the ads, provided Madison is the one to come to the ranch and make all the arrangements. He wants to see if the sparks that flew between them can be the basis for something special and he doesn’t want to be a long distance father.

If Chance is uncertain about his capacity for intimacy because of his early experiences, Madison, equally scarred by her father’s casual infidelities, is convinced that relationships are fragile and uncertain and that only in her work can she find security. She is frightened by the feelings that Chance arouses in her, fearful to depend on someone else.

The two have to try to develop their relationship against the ever-increasing demands that the ad agency and its client place on Chance. And he comes to wonder if Madison has any feelings for him beyond his role in advancing her career.

What keeps me from recommending this book is Madison’s character and behavior. I have never worked in business, being a denizen of the ivory tower, but if Madison is as good as she is purported to be, it just seems to me that she should have the gumption to stand up to the constant threats of her boss that if she doesn’t do everything just the way he wants it (even though he is going against what he himself agreed to), then she can whistle the promotion good-bye. I guess bosses and clients in the real world may well be as capricious and demanding as they are here portrayed, but I really feel that Madison let herself be pushed around for too long. Thus, instead of sympathizing with her, I wanted to shake her and say, “Stand up for yourself, girl!”

Still, A Baby by Chance deals with real conflicts that women face today as they try to balance motherhood and work. I fear that few women can work out these problems as nicely as Madison does, but it would be great if they could.

--Jean Mason


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