Jane Darlington is a lecturer, physicist, and genius. This last quality has made her life a misery – raised by a disapproving father, she was a friendless outcast at school and college because of her youth. Though she’s had sex Jane has never dated, and doesn’t really know how to relate to men outside an academic context. Nearing thirty, Jane desperately wants a child. Not just any child, though – to spare it the agonising trauma of her own early years Jane is determined to find a father who is physically fit but of low normal intelligence. Combined with her staggering intellect this ought to even things out and give her child a fair chance at a normal life.
Jodie Pulanski’s a Chicago Stars groupie – she’s slept with half the football players, and has the numbered jerseys to prove it. When quarterback Cal Bonner’s team mates decide he needs to get laid for his birthday, and promise Jodie to hook her up with two Stars players who’ve avoided her thus far she seizes the opportunity. A chance meeting with Jane looks promising – without the school marm bun and glasses, and in age-appropriate clothes the dried up spinster’s almost hot. Sure, she wants a dumb guy, and Cal’s anything but, but if Jane is betrayed by her prejudice against athletes and willingness to believe Cal’s public persona that’s her look out.
Part of both the Chicago Stars series, about footballers finding love, and the Bonner brothers duology, Nobody’s Baby But Mine offers all the quality hallmarks fans of Peters have come to expect. The dialogue is natural and occasionally amusing, and Peters is a genius at showing rather than telling. All the characters, not just the leads, are three-dimensional and believable. The barriers between Jane and Cal are plausible and not merely consistent with their personalities but integrally part of them – the way they behave is the only way they could respond. Cal and Jane develop over the course of the novel, overcoming painful pasts and resolving long-standing issues while maintaining integrity of self.
This was all great and thoroughly enjoyable. However, the standout aspect for me of Nobody’s Baby was the secondary storyline about Cal’s parents – Peters masterfully portrays a long-term relationship that has fallen apart through misunderstanding, miscommunication and betrayal of an atypical kind. It is perhaps this element that separates Peters’ writing from most in this heavily populated genre – she never goes for cliché or routine when an alternative is available, but tempers this with a dedication to realism (at least within the conventions of the field), producing work that is warm, absorbing and wholly believable.
Okay, I think having the resulting baby thinking (which is how the novel ends) was a little hokey, but two paragraphs out of 374 pages are nothing, and more than compensated for the exceptional quality of every other aspect. The Stars series can be read in any sequence – you may learn about other relationships if reading them out of order, but you know going in to a romance that the leads will end up together, so that’s not a huge spoiler, and they all stand alone nicely. However a chunk of the pleasure of the Bonner brothers min-series (Nobody’s Baby, and Dream a Little Dream) is the layering, so they're better read sequentially as written. - Alex