Review: Who's the Daddy?

Who's the Daddy? by Judy Christenberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read this book a couple of times now and tend to make fun of it a lot because the plot is so ridiculous. A woman wakes up pregnant in a hospital, surrounded by a bunch of people she doesn’t know because she has amnesia, and three men are claiming to be the father of her baby, only she’s never met them before, never mind recognize them. Well, we all know instantly who the father of the baby is, don’t we, readers? It’s the sexy one who makes the heroine’s knees weak and her nipples stiffen like pencil erasers. DNA, schmee-ehn-ay. The heroine isn’t a triflin’ ho who sleeps with three or four guys at the same time; let’s make that clear. She’ll only sleep with the guy who has a five o’clock shadow by noon and shoulders that would challenge most doorways, holds blue steel in his gaze, and can silence nimrods and pencil-necks with a tersely spoken word.

Max (you can tell he’s the hero because he has a name like Max) Daniels had a lovely, two-week courtship with Caroline Adkins until the night they slept together and made wonderful, sweet love, and he woke up to find her gone the next day. It had been a couple of months since they last saw each other and Max is missing her oh so badly. He has no idea how to find her because she never gave him her contact info (you were with this girl for two weeks, Max!). All he knows about her is what she told him: that she’s new in town and looking for a job. They actually met while she was applying for a job at Max’s firm (he obviously didn’t hire her). Max is driving around in his truck (because real men drive trucks) when he hears about a Caroline Adkins, the daughter of the town’s richest guy, getting into a car accident and currently sitting pretty at the town’s Memorial Hospital, where she’s in a stable condition. Max just knows the radio is talking about his Caroline, so he goes off to the hospital to find out what’s what and confront Caroline for good.

…only there are already a bunch of other people there, including Caroline’s domineering father and two pencil-neck nimrods in suits, both claiming to be the father of Caroline’s baby. Credit to Caroline’s father for not casting her out as a no-account ho for dating three dudes at the same time with whom she may also be sexually involved. Credit to Max, too, for not getting enraged and boiling in his own blood in fury at the thought of Caroline getting busy with other guys. That is, he doesn’t do the Harlequin Romance Hero™ thing of denouncing her as a whore and a liar in front of others, laying waste to the room with the intensity of his thousand-yard stare alone, and slamming the door hard enough to break the hinges on his way out. He keeps his cool, actually. Obviously, Caroline DID lie to him, but he’s more concerned about what happened to her, her well-being, and the paternity of the baby. Besides, he only has to look at the other two men to know that they’re no competition to him because they don’t have the shoulders, jawline, presence, and ability of the Harlequin Romance Hero™ to reduce the heroine into a puddle of quivering goo with a wink and a smile.

Ugh, Caroline. She’s got the resolve of wet muslin in a gale. Her first reaction to Max is “Hot-diggity-dog, let me have a bite of that” and she doesn’t hesitate to let anyone know that she prefers him over the others, Prescott and Adrian. See? These guys never had a chance. Just look at their names. Adrian is an okay name, I guess, but Prescott inspires about as much passion as Larry or Dwayne. “Oh, Prescott, you can get it anytime.” No, that doesn’t work. But Max—there’s a name. That’s power. Power to the Max. She doesn’t hesitate to go after Max, making the first move to invite him to her parents’ house. Of course, her domineering, control freak of a father learns of her plans and invites Adrian and Prescott over to dinner, too, ruining any chances of Caroline to get to know Max a little better and maybe see what’s under his clothes. Both Adrian and Prescott are pretty adamant that Caroline was seeing them both regularly and her father, who wants her to marry either one of these lackeys, wants Max eliminated and for Caroline to focus on these two suitors. Mr. Adkins tells Caroline that Max is a no-good fortune hunter who only wants her for her money, so she can’t trust him. Besides, who knows about the guy, anyway? He just showed up out of nowhere, claiming to be Caroline’s baby daddy… But Caroline knows it has to be Max because she knows in her heart that she doesn’t connect with Adrian or Prescott the way she does with Max.

As for Max, he’s trying to solve the mystery of Caroline’s amnesia, too. Pressured by her father and desperate to make peace, Caroline gives in and tells her father she’ll marry the man who presents irrefutable proof that he’s the father of Caroline’s baby. Seriously??? The two guys claiming to be the father of your baby inspires zero passion in you at all and you know deep down you couldn’t see yourself with either of these nimrods, but you’d marry them anyway because they have proof you got horizontal with them once? What kind of proof is Mr. Adkins looking for, anyway? A sex tape?? Max puts his detective hat on and finds out that Caroline used a fake name at the hotel she stayed at for two weeks and paid wholly in cash. WTF. At this point of the game, Max should have backed off and told himself to move on because some hinky shit is going on, but Max will not give up. Forget it, Max, this is Colorado Springs! He also finds out that Caroline and her father had a huge fight, which precipitated her storming out of the house and disappearing for two weeks.

Caroline obviously wants Max and doesn’t hesitate to show him, but won’t commit to him until she knows the truth or she gets her memories back, which frustrates Max to no end because it’s so obvious to him that they belong together. Caroline, however, has some misplaced sense of honor about promising her father to marry the guy with the proof. Yeah, but Max is THE GUY, hell-O! She’s in love with him and knows she’ll be miserable with whomever she ends up marrying if it’s not Max, yet she insists on following through. With Max’s help, she gets one guy to confess that they’d never gone to bed together and that he was out of town during Caroline’s infamous missing two weeks. Caroline is sure that Max is guy, even though he can’t produce any proof that they were together (this was before cell phones, so they couldn’t have taken a selfie together next to the infamous Nacho Tower at Appleby’s or something and posted it on Instagram). But what happens when the other guy comes up with indisputable proof that Caroline was with him in Vegas, canoodling and cavorting, when she was supposed to have been with Max, getting knocked up and whatnot?

This is a fun, easy little read that I like to go back to because of its sheer ridiculousness. There are also a couple of side characters that make this book memorable, especially Caroline’s very competitive younger sister (“You got pregnant on purpose just to upstage me!”) and her mother, who may seem clueless and ambivalent, but actually cares very much about Caroline and her happiness. Caroline’s dad is a major jerk who doesn’t listen to Caroline, much less understand why she’s freaked out about the thought or marrying a guy she doesn’t love, and Caroline doesn’t do the best job of standing up to him. She can be super annoyingly indecisive, but Max kept me reading because he was just so sweet and patient with her. Up to the last minute, Caroline was being a pill and I was surprised Max didn’t just brush his hands off the whole mess and walked out. But he’s a good guy and my favorite Harlequin Romance Hero™ is a sweet, good guy in love…

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