Substitute Daddy

The Doctor’s Secret Child
by Kate Welsh
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1734, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24734-6
The Doctor’s Secret Child requires the reader to suspend some belief, put up with the first 100 pages that read like a documentary on children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction and stay with the story long enough to care about the two people who eventually fall in love for all the right reasons.

Caroline Hopewell adopted a young baby who she thought was her half brother when her elderly father and his new young wife were killed. Her remaining sisters and mother surrounded her and together they started a winery and bed and breakfast that became their life. Jamie is now six and has SID, a developmental disability that affects how he sees and views the world, but does not affect his intellectual functioning. He goes through periods of hating things to touch him and periods where touch and sensory stimulation fascinate him. Caroline has found therapists and a school that works with Jamie in the hopes that he will one day be able to function normally in society. Getting the information out about Jamie’s problems seems to read like a brochure on what to do and what not to do with a child with this disability. At times the information is presented in a way that clearly makes Caroline the “angel” and Trey the “devil” for not knowing and doing the right thing.

Dr. Trey Westerly is one of a long line of rich and powerful Westerlys, or at least that is what his mother has always assured him. He is a trauma surgeon in New York City. Trey and his wife Natalie got divorced when Natalie decided she couldn’t compete against his work. She went after James Hopewell, broke up his marriage and they had a son. But the son really belonged to Trey Westerly. A publicity photo for the winery brought home that fact to Trey and he decides he must meet and get to know his son.

The story takes us through the first traumatic meeting of father and son to the courtroom where Trey tries to fight for custodial rights. The threat to Jamie’s ability to cope and to Caroline’s piece of mind does not lend itself to romance…yet there is attraction and some heat when Caroline and Trey meet. When they decide to put aside their differences for what is best for Jamie, the story takes off. The two have to spend time together to help Jamie get acclimated to Trey and to New York City, which is vastly more stimulating than the mountains of New York. When Trey’s mother starts attempting to control things, and Trey recognizes symptoms of the disorder that he had as a child, Trey and Caroline join forces and the romance solidifies.

Trey starts off as a bitter man who resents his parents divorce, resents his mother’s lack of emotional support, resents his ex-wife who couldn’t give him what he needed and he is confrontational when he doesn’t like what he sees of Jamie’s upbringing. It takes a while to warm up to him. Caroline is the polar opposite. She has sacrificed all she is so that she can give Jamie the best. At times she is almost too good to be true. It is actually refreshing when she throws a bit of a temper tantrum about something Mrs. Westerly does to Jamie.

Trey and Caroline both begin to redeem themselves and become more likable when they start to realize they are attracted and that it has nothing to do with Jamie. The last half of the book is much better and more engaging than the first half. The author uses polar opposites to get her point across and this detracts a bit from the book. Most of Caroline’s family is wonderful, supportive and hardworking. Mrs. Westerly is a society snob with no redeeming values. She is almost a caricature which generates some pity from the reader.

The Doctor’s Secret Child is an acceptable story, and may be more for readers who don’t mind character transformations and some attitudes that are a bit on the “holier than thou” level.

--Shirley Lyons

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