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Book Recommendation: Baby Comes First

I just read Beverly Farr's Baby Comes First and was thoroughly engaged and very impressed. It's a rare, consistently-intelligent romance with a healthy power dynamic between the two leads.

Here's the blurb:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage -- but Hannah’s doing it in the wrong order.

Hannah has a secret. She’s given up her dream of a traditional family and gone to a sperm bank. She’s thrilled to be pregnant, but she doesn’t want her handsome new boss Luke asking too many questions.

Luke is a high-powered trial attorney. He doesn’t have time for love, but he finds his new secretary Hannah increasingly attractive. And he senses that there’s something she’s not telling him.

Baby Comes First is a quirky, sweet romance.

My favorite aspect of this novel is how both of the lead characters are intelligent and remain consistent with their perspectives throughout the story. Aside from a rather foolish/selfish decision by Hannah--a necessary device that gets the plot moving, and is later acknowledged as not the wisest decision--everything that both Hannah and Luke do is so refreshingly well-motivated. They make logical, clear-headed decisions, their motivations are well-explained by their backstories, and the conflict is entirely generated by the differences in their points of view. The chemistry takes a while to heat up, but even that transition feels entirely believable. In short, this romance never feels contrived, the climax is not the usual proposal trope--in fact, the wedding is merely a step along the way to building a strong *marriage*, a much more meaningful proposition--and the resolution of the sexual tension doesn't actually solve any problems: it just reveals the deeper issues of the heart that need to be addressed. A rich bit of insight there!

The writing style is fresh and engaging, avoiding overwrought descriptions of either emotions or physical attraction while still conveying the strength of both. There are some clever moments of light humor amidst plenty of entirely reasonable / believable drama. Farr maintains the tension throughout with some very skillful doling out of the information from both characters' points of view. Farr makes it clear that she's done her background research (e.g., on the legal profession and childbearing) without ever once distracting from the story by putting too much of it on display. It bolsters the believability of the tale.

There's a wonderfully healthy balance of power in the relationship. Luke's attempts to protect and provide for Hannah are often done in a steamrolling kind of way, because he believes that he's doing the right thing and in the optimal way (which, technically, he sort of is, but it's all truth with no grace). But she calls this behavior for what it is: he's controlling. This is not celebrated as a healthy dynamic, unlike some other popular romances I could name. :) The fact that she recognizes the unhealthy pattern and chooses to stand up to him (without throwing temper tantrums) is just mature and fantastic of her.

The male lead also has a refreshingly well-balanced view of women. For example, I liked how Luke, when he's trying to convince Hannah to marry him, tells her that he thinks she's capable of being far more than a mere secretary and part of his argument for the marriage is that she'd be able to go back to school because he could support her financially. So awesome! He both wants her to be a stay-at-home mother and also to take the opportunity to build into herself professionally. Yay! What a concept! You can do both! (Just maybe not all at the same time. :)

It was nice to see an intelligent, older female character who didn't fall into any of the stereotypes that I expected of a romance novel heroine. She might not be sexually experienced, but she still knows herself and is confident in her abilities and stands up to even the man she's fallen in love with, despite being physically at a disadvantage. It's a nice distinction to make in a culture that seems to equate sexual experience with maturity / adulthood.

I would highly recommend this sweet romance, an easy read in an evening or two, and well worth your time!