I’ve been reading romance novels since I was about, oh, eleven or so. There’s not a flavor of the genre I haven’t at least attempted. Inspirational, Western, Fantasy, Historical, you name it. And the categories? Oh, the categories. I could read five or six in a sitting. I loved those little Signet Regencies, but I digress.
As any romance reader worth her bookmark knows, in category romances especially, there are certain cliched plot lines, or tropes, that are standard. The marriage of convenience. The jaded billionaire. The reformed rake. And then, my least favorite and the trope in the book I’m ranting about, the secret baby.
NOT THE MARRYING KIND by Hailey North. The back of the book reads like this:
Sixteen years ago, world-famous artist Harriet P. Smith was the nerdiest girl at Doolittle High School, and Jake Porter was the new boy in town. Charismatic, handsome, and instantly popular, Jake was way out of her league. Harriet was shocked when he asked her to the graduation dance . . . and devastated when he left town for good the next morning.
Only his father’s remarriage could bring Jake, now a hot shot L.A. music exec, back to small-town Arkansas. His only consolation is the stunning woman with the mysterious green eyes he meets at a local bar. He’s got no idea he was a part of one of the best nights of her life–or that he’s about to fall for her as hard as she once did for him. Jake’s never been the marrying kind, but another night with Harriet might make him change his mind.
Did YOU see any mention of a secret baby? I didn’t. So when on the bottom of page two, we find out she got knocked up by the hero, I was a bit surprised. Okay, more than a bit. I actually re-read the back of the book blurb to make sure I hadn’t picked up the wrong book by mistake.
Sadly, I hadn’t.
If you had any interest in reading this book, you might want to bail now, because this could get spoiler-y.
Jake, the hero, was a military kid. He lived in Doolittle for six months when he was a senior, and while there, he was dared to go to the prom with, and then get horizontal with, the geekiest and mouthiest girl in the class, Harriet. He did it, but he INSISTS it wasn’t because of the dare. And I have 3,000 acres of prime waterfront property in Arizona to sell you. Moving on.
Of course, in their passion, the condom was the last thing on their minds, and even though we are told by Jake that he pulled out, she gets knocked up. He’s yanked from the country by his father the very next day, and doesn’t find out about his kid until 16 years later. Meanwhile, Harriet finds out she’s pregnant, and convinces her gay best friend to tell everyone he knocked her up (which pleases his homophobic dad to NO END) and they get married and move to New York and live off of his money and apparently live like monks until poor gay husband and his father crash their car off the side of a cliff while deer hunting. YES. THAT.
THIS is my major problem with the application of this trope in this book.
As anyone who has ever faced infertility can tell you (and there are about 7 million of us in the US alone) it can be damn hard to get pregnant. The chances of ANYONE, even those who are perfectly healthy with no issues, of getting pregnant in a particular cycle are about 1 in 5. (According to ehow, the chances are about 25% for a couple who is actively timing ovulation and intercourse. Regular sexual activity with no timing? Drops it to 11%. Source.)
Why tell us he pulled out? Why not have them have sex a couple of times, to give us some belief that there was more of a chance for this to happen? The chances of this happening the way it was described were so incredibly small that it completely took me out of the story.
THEN we get to the whole, meeting back in the hometown, and of course they run into each other and she recognizes him and he doesn’t recognize her, and they almost do it, and then he finds out it WAS her, and they do it for like, a week plus, and she NEVER TELLS HIM about the kid until he SEES HIS OWN EYES (yes, that was a Heart reference. So sue me.)
And what about her poor dead gay husband? Who basically GAVE UP HIS ENTIRE LIFE TO SUPPORT HER AND HER BASTARD CHILD THAT PROBABLY COULDN’T EXIST IN A NORMAL WORLD ANYWAY BECAUSE THERE WAS SUCH AN INFINITESIMALLY SMALL CHANCE THAT HE COULD HAVE BEEN CONCEIVED IN THE FIRST PLACE BECAUSE SPERM CAN’T GET UP AND WALTZ INTO AN OVUM, THEY SORT OF HAVE TO BE PUT NEAR IT TO HAVE IT HAPPEN.
Maybe I should stop there.
Thoughts? Anyone read this particular “gem?” I need a drink.