Title: Nobody’s Baby But Mine
Author: Phillips, Susan Elizabeth (Author’s Website)
Bibliographic: William Morrow Paperbacks, 400 pages, Paperback List Price $12.99, Mass Market Paperback $7.99, Audiobook List Price $35.93, ISBNs 9780380782345, 9780060894702, 9780062004666, 9780062107008, 9780783881973, 9780061793219, 9780066212203, 9780749937775
Publication Date: February 1, 1997
Rating: ★★★☆☆/♥♥♥♥♡ (The rating scale is here).
Appeal Factors: Funny, steamy, engaging
Why I picked it up: A podcast I listen to said it was really funny.
S.I.A.S.: Physicist Jane Darlington desperately wants to have a baby, but doesn’t want it to be brilliant like her, so she sets out to find a stupid man.
Summary: On the evening of her thirty-fourth birthday, Jane Darlington is home alone and feeling blue. Her biological clock is ticking but she’s not in a relationship and has no prospects. She doesn’t want love and marriage, per se, just a baby — and she has one important criterion when it comes to finding a father. As a child, her own father gave her a very hard time and she was mocked relentlessly for her extreme intelligence, and so she wants to make sure that her child’s father is somebody stupid. That way, her baby will be of average intelligence, at best. When her next-door neighbor, a groupie for the Chicago Stars (a fictional NFL team), comes over to borrow some coffee Jane spills her guts, and the neighbor raises an interesting possibility. She has been tasked with finding the Stars’ quarterback, Cal Bonner, a woman for his birthday. Jane can pretend to be a prostitute, tamper with her condoms, and get pregnant by the ultimate dumb jock, and nobody ever needs to be the wiser.
Jane gets pregnant the second time she visits Cal, but things don’t quite work out the way Jane planned. Cal does find out and is absolutely furious. Even though he has no interest in being a father, he refuses to become a deadbeat dad, so he forced Jane to marry him to legitimize their child, with the intent of divorcing her and obtaining split custody after the child is born. To make their marriage seem more realistic, he brings her home to rural North Carolina to meet his family. He tells her to make them hate her, to make their inevitable divorce less painful, but it proves to be harder than anyone thought for Jane to earn the Bonner family’s disregard — especially Cal’s.
Evaluation: I can see why people enjoyed this book, especially when it first came out, but I don’t think it’s aged well and it certainly wasn’t the book for me; I frequently found myself rolling my eyes at what was going on. Jane’s conduct was reprehensible, and I had trouble believing that Cal could start to forgive her as quickly as he did, especially given how furious he was at the beginning of the novel. Cal, meanwhile, was the traditional alpha male in the worst possible way — I read a fair amount of romance (although I vastly prefer historicals), and when I reveal that to people they quite often scoff. Cal Bonner embodied all the stereotypes that make people disregard the genre. He was controlling, he was dismissive, he refused to listen to reason, and he was quite focused on being macho. I nearly abandoned this book more than once because of something he said or did.
The setting was surprisingly well-developed. I really enjoyed the small mountain town where most of the book takes place, especially the relationship between Cal and Jane’s huge mansion and Cal’s grandmother’s place. I grew up in a rural area and I knew people whose grandma or aunt or cousin or whoever lived in a house that was easier to walk to than to drive to because you could cut through the woods or a field, and I thought that was a really nice touch. I also greatly enjoyed reading about Cal’s grandmother, who helped to cement the sense of place.
While I personally didn’t enjoy this book, I know that a lot of people do — many of whose opinions I respect and whose tastes in books are usually at least somewhat similar to mine. I don’t think I’d have any hesitancy about recommending it to people who wanted contemporary romances, especially sports romances, although I might mention that it’s a bit dated.
Significance: This is the third book in the Chicago Stars series, and won several awards when it was released in 1997.
- This novel is about a woman who seduces a man under false pretenses in order to become pregnant. Can you understand her motivations or sympathize with her at all? How would you react if you were in Cal’s situation?
- What is the role of family in Cal and Jane’s marriage? Why does Jane so dislike treating Cal’s family poorly?
- Why is Jane so determined to have a child, at any cost? Why doesn’t she want her child to be intelligent?
- Near the end of the book, all three of the novel’s women take refuge away from men. Why do they do this? Why does Cal’s mother behave the way she does, both towards Jane and in general?
- Did the ending of the book seem realistic to you? Why or why not?
Lists and Awards: All About Romance Annual Reader Poll for Favorite Romance of the Year & Favorite Funny & Favorite Contemporary Romance (1998). TRR 5 Heart Keeper. RITA Award for Best Contemporary Single Title (1998). RWA’s Favorite Book of 1997. Romance Readers Anonymous Award for Best Love & Laughter (1997). Library Journal Best Romance Books.