Buchanan's Pride

The Mail-Order Mix-Up

The Baby Legacy by Pamela Toth
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1299, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-37324299-9
I do believe that in RomanceLand, fertility clinics, sperm banks and other means of artificial insemination for the most part cause more troubles than they're worth. Test tubes are mixed up, specimens are lost, names are switched and identities are never kept secret. It's surprising that RomanceLand attorneys aren't having a dandy time filing malpractice suits. Maybe that's a story I missed, or one that's yet to be written.

Mac Duncan deposited sperm three years ago at the Buttonwood Baby Clinic to help a friend. The friend has since married and never needed his sperm. He's decided to call the clinic to request that his sperm be disposed of when he gets a letter from the clinic and assumes that it's some kind of consent form for him to sign. Boy, is he ever wrong! What he reads is an invitation to childbirth classes. Uh oh, it seems that his sperm was used by mistake eight months ago, and he's about to be a daddy.

What the letter also discloses is the name of the mommy to be. Double uh oh!

Megan Malone is a single expectant mother who was artificially inseminated. Everything is just hunky dory in her world until she opens a letter from Buttonwood. She's horrified to read the name of the sperm donor. She had wanted total anonymity. Reading more, she's furious that he knows who she is and has been invited be her partner in childbirth classes.

Mac contacts Megan, determined to fulfill his paternal duties. Megan is just as determined that Mac should butt out. From here on we're treated to their gradual awakening that perhaps they do need each other. What keeps the story from being fun is that the characters aren't much fun themselves. Mac has some hangups, and Megan is what I'd call a colorless character.

Taken with a grain of salt, this plot works. What nearly overbalances it are Mac's parents, academicians who are stiff, pompous and ridiculously cardboard. It's surprising that Mac, thirty-seven, even pays much attention to this dysfunctional couple.

A few surprises keep the story from being entirely predictable, but they come too late in the book for me to mention them. A big part of the story is predictable. Megan won't marry Mac because he doesn't believe in love. Maybe more of his parents' dysfunctions have rubbed of on him than he thinks. Mac's girlfriend is mulling over a big promotion in another city, a scenario which gets her out of the picture almost too easily and effortlessly.

Both Mac and Megan have interesting occupations. Mac is an architect who is now marching to that different drum. Instead of designing skyscrapers or high tech residences, he's making custom playhouses. Megan has a perfect occupation for a stay at home mom. She's a cookbook text editor and sets up the index. A brief description of her day made me realize that there's more to those cookbooks than I ever knew.

One sentence jumped out at me and wouldn't let go. Megan is cleaning her home before Mac comes over to see the nursery. Megan owns a cat, and at one point she's emptying its litter. Even non-cat owners have heard of toxoplasmosis, a big concern to pregnant women. Eliminating the risk of exposure is easy; pregnant cat owners should avoid handling the litter box by having someone else perform the task, or simply wear gloves when cleaning it, and washing hands thoroughly afterwards. Call me picky, but I expect some semblance of realism when dealing with the baby's health, and Megan showed none. Without being preachy, I think a good lesson in health care could have been introduced.

Megan and Mac never seemed real, never seemed interesting, never involved me in their fears, their concerns, their dreams, their lives. Without that spark of animation, I can't recommend The Baby Legacy. Here's hoping that you'll read more into it than I was able to.

--Linda Mowery

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