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The Texan's BabyThe Texan’s Baby is a 2014 Harlequin American Romance by Donna Alward.  Like many romances, this is part of a series featuring the consecutive pairing up of siblings (Texas Rodeo Barons). I am getting a little weary of being introduced to single or recently married siblings, but in this case each book is written by a different author. That might add some variety to the series, and for the writers it must be fun to collaborate and promote each other.

The plot is simple and efficiently told. Lizzie discovers she is pregnant, thanks to a one night stand and despite a condom. Fair enough – accidents happen. She tracks down the father, because he deserves to know. He wants to be involved, they start spending time together, etc.

If I sound unenthusiastic about the story, that is because this book was not as good as I have come to expect from Alward (which still makes it better than a lot of other romances out there).  Despite the Western trappings, this is a book about city folk. Not just ordinary city folk either – both characters are executives for companies in Dallas.

Lizzie is a member of the wealthy Baron family, with a senior position at her father’s oil company (oil barons, get it? And the title does not make sense either – they are both Texans). Chris is an engineer at a wind energy company, with enough job security and money for a one year leave to try the rodeo circuit. When he learns he is going to be a father, he comes back early to accept a promotion into management. An unexpected baby is a challenge for anyone, but this couple do not need to worry about expenses, child support, or career problems. Nor do these characters need to overcome past traumas, a common (and satisfying) relationship obstacle in Alward’s stories. They have already been to bed, and they are not in any other relationships. The stakes seem low, especially for a pregnancy plot.

When they had their one night stand, Chris knew then that Lizzie was classier than a buckle bunny. I assume that is some sort of rodeo groupie (who knew?), but I am a little annoyed by the good girl/bad girl dichotomy. Similarly, once Lizzie knows she is pregnant, she is pleasantly surprised to learn Chris is not the second rate “dusty bronc rider” she thought he was. While it is efficient story telling to skip their initial encounter, I do wonder how it went. We know they both had a good time, but I am reminded of Ayn Rand’s Dominique Francon bedding Howard Roark, assuming he was just a quarry worker. For Lizzie, was “the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her … the kind of rapture she had wanted”?

To her credit, Alward acknowledges some of the challenges facing single women who become pregnant, working women who become pregnant, and working women in powerful, traditionally male positions. There is an external conflict appropriate to business executives, and lots of heartwarming family stuff.

I have come to admire Alward’s story telling skills, and they are on display here, but The Texan’s Baby is missing some of her usual character and plot touches. Perhaps the collaborative nature of the project is responsible. That is what Ayn Rand would suggest.

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