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Baby of Convenience
by Diana Whitney
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1361, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24361-8
****
I read a ton of books, but only the very best of them stick in my mind. The plot of an average read is generally forgotten as soon as I close the cover. I mention this because Iíve read only one other book by Diana Whitney, yet the plot and characters have remained fresh in my mind for over a year.

What makes her books work for me is the in-depth characterization. Baby of Convenience has all the old category standbys: a marriage of convenience, a baby, and a hero who canít get beyond his tortured past to trust another woman. Yet, Iím drawn into a plot Iíve read countless times before, because the richly drawn characters bring the material to life.

Things havenít been going well for Laura Michaels since her divorce. Locating a job in the tiny town of Mill Creek is proving impossible and the pressure is really on now that her wealthy ex-in-laws are suing her for custody of her son Jamie. If she didnít have enough problems, her cat Maggie has decided to deliver her kittens in the wine cellar of reclusive millionaire, Royce Burton.

Royce owns Burton Technologies, the firm that employs most of the residents of Mill Creek. The corporation is struggling and Royceís only hope lies with Marchandt Limited, a conservative European corporation that has expressed an interest in investing in Burton Technologies. Unfortunately, Mr. Marchandt has the mistaken impression that the confirmed bachelor is a happily married family man.

Royce must suddenly produce a family or Burton Technologies will close, taking with it all the jobs the residents of Mill Creek depend upon. Finding Laura Michaels and her son (who just so happens to resemble Royce) on his doorstep is the answer to his prayers.

It isnít long before a mutually suitable deal is struck: Laura will become Royceís wife in exchange for his protection in the custody battle against her ex-in-laws. But the purely business deal becomes personal as Laura uncovers the vulnerable man hiding behind the gruff exterior.

As Iíve mentioned, itís the characterizations that make Baby of Convenience work, especially in the character of Royce. While Laura is a sympathetic, she hasnít the layers that make Royce such a stand out hero. He starts out as stiff as they come, especially in his purposely stilted dialogue. The warming of his personality is evident when Laura finds him in secret conversation with the cat he proposes to hate. His chagrin upon discovery is palpable.

The secondary characters are also well drawn. Especially the ďevilĒ housekeeper Marta (who reminded me of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca), who remains rigidly in character, even as her feelings toward Laura begin to change.

Any reader who enjoys the marriage of convenience plot will undoubtedly delight in reading Baby of Convenience. I might have passed this one by had I not been assigned it for review, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Laura and Royce. I think you will, too.

--Karen Lynch


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