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Terrible cover. Title in small print, author’s name in white over the brightest and busiest parts of the image, wrong backdrop for the story, and this guy looks neither happy nor sexy. I shouldn’t review a book by its cover, but this one is awful.

My intention to review at least one book from each Harlequin line is proving to be difficult, as there are a lot of lines, not to mention imprints, and I’m losing track. It might be time to create a spreadsheet, or at least improve my use of tags. Maureen Child’s Baby Bonanza, from 2008, is in a series called “Babies and Billionaires,” and part of the Desire line. Desire is stories where “You can’t help it–you’re attracted to power! Harlequin Desire stories feature heroes who have it all: wealth, status, incredible good looks…everything but the right woman. Add some secrets, maybe a scandal, and start turning pages!” I’m not sure which line has the heroes of modest means and looks, but who needs them?

Our hero Nick Falco certainly has it all. Owner of a cruise line, he’s a playboy who never lacks for company from among female passengers. One night he sweeps Jenna Baker off her feet, and they enjoy a week of shipboard romance, until he discovers she is his employee. Star Trek, Spock no less, taught me that “It is not a lie to keep the truth to oneself,” but Nick feels differently and fires Jenna.

Jenna doesn’t need Nick. She owns a small home, and starts up her own business after losing the cruise line job. However, sleeping with a co-worker was not the only error Nick and Jenna made. Jenna attempts to inform Nick that he is the father of twin boys, but he ignores her emails. (It’s not clear why he does not read her emails, but perhaps his assistant set up an auto-delete for them). Unlike a lot of single mothers in romances, she wants child support, so when she doesn’t hear from Nick she saves enough to go on a cruise, leaves her boys with her sister, and arranges to confront Nick on his cruise ship home.

At this point I was a little torn. Perhaps a registered letter or a letter from a lawyer might have been the next logical step when he does not answer her emails.  But this is a romance, and there is a generic imperative to get our couple together. And besides, as single mother romance heroines go, she’s feisty and independent. I decided to go with it.

As it happens (thanks to generic imperative), though Nick still seems the playboy, he’s more cautious than he used to be, enjoys it less, and is somewhat haunted by the week he spent with an employee a year ago, and how that ended. When Jenna turns up, he’s willing to pay support once paternity is confirmed, and meanwhile decides the best way to get her out of his mind is to get her into his bed one last time. Does that ever work? As for Jenna, she’s been busy with the babies, but seeing Nick again brings back a lot of memories. After a night of wild sex, neither is sure who seduced whom. I’m normally cynical of first night fireworks, but in this case it is a reunion, and Child writes a good sex scene.

Other reviewers have commented on the issue of Jenna’s post-birth appearance, pointing out that at four months she’d still be carrying a lot of extra weight. I suppose she could be, but if she is, it’s a point in Nick’s favour that he doesn’t care, and doesn’t even seem to notice. There is a brief passage that could refer to her post baby body: As they are making out, she reflects on how she has grown and changed since they last met, and that being more, can feel more.

It’s no surprise that Nick wants to be more involved than just paying support, but Jenna is not sure she wants more, or that he can offer more. The happy ending compromise requires more accommodation on his part than hers, and I particularly appreciated that despite his all money, his offer for her includes making sure she can continue to run her business.

At just over a hundred pages on my e-reader, this is a short book, devoid of subplots, but with sufficient touches of reality in the secondary characters and the work of a cruise line owner. There is a slightly higher than usual ratio of wish-fulfillment to plot and characterization, even for a romance, but I’m happy to forgive that in recognition of a relatively independent heroine. Baby Bonanza was a pleasant way to pass a couple of rainy lunch hours.

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