The Surgeon's Secret Baby
by Ann Christopher, contemporary (2011)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86225-2
Ann Christopher's The Surgeon's Secret Baby is, unfortunately, not a satire of an everyday Harlequin Medical story. That's in line with Harlequin's efforts to transform the Kimani line into a Black version of their other category lines, but luckily for me, the transformation hasn't reached a critical mass of stupidity yet.
What you see is what you get, so in this one, the surgeon - the Head of Surgery, actually - Thomas Bradshaw really does have a secret baby. Only, he made his contribution to a sperm bank ages ago and he has won the lottery, so to speak, when Lia Taylor and her late husband happened to pick his contribution and put it to good use. Now a widow, Lia needs to seek out the biological father of her son Jalen because Jalen's kidney is failing fast and there is already a long waiting list of patients in need of a functional kidney. She hacks into the hospital database and discovers the baby daddy's identity. Now, she seeks out Thomas in hope of getting his kidney for Jalen. Thomas, understandably, is taken aback by these developments.
The Surgeon's Secret Baby is an odd duck because it starts out pretty terribly. Thomas is like a caricature of a typical arrogant hero, with him so over the top and ridiculous in his bluster that I have a hard time taking him seriously. Lia is irritating - she is always "on" when it comes to being a Miss Thing. For example, when she overhears Thomas chewing out a junior doctor for his carelessness, she blindly interrupts to scold Thomas when she barely knows what is going on. It is only when Thomas points out that the doctor's carelessness could have killed a patient that she pauses a while, only to then justify her action as her wanting to protect the underdog. There is no business she can't resist poking her nose into no matter how inappropriate her intervention is, and Lia is just ridiculous and irritating with her inflated sense of self-importance.
However, just when I am resigned to writing off this story as an angina in the making, these characters suddenly undergo a personality transplant. All of a sudden, aliens must have abducted the Lia and Thomas that are getting on my nerves when I am not looking, and replaced them with pleasant people that are actually likable. Lia goes from irritatingly sassy to likably sassy. Thomas goes from a blustery cartoon to a pleasant, if still somewhat arrogant, fellow who clicks very well with Lia. These two start to behave sensibly and I go from thinking that their romance is a trainwreck to believing that these two will actually do really great together in the long run. There is some character development that is done believably, with Thomas learning to be less self-absorbed and Lia learning to let down her guard and go with the flow. And for a sickly kid, Jalen is actually quite adorable.
The second half or so of The Surgeon's Secret Baby, therefore, is actually a good read to me. It's too bad that this second half is awkwardly stuck to a very contrived first half full of exaggerated Harlequin Mills & Boon clichés. Maybe the author will be able to get into her groove from start to finish in the next book, but for now, this one is only half a good book.
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