A Baby for Christmas

Not long ago I reviewed His Best Friend’s Wife, and wondered why it took seven years for Best Friend to get together with widowed Wife. Things seem to move faster in Joanna Sims’ similar A Baby For Christmas. Sophia is eight months pregnant, and just six months a widow when Luke comes calling. Luke is her brother-in-law, an identical twin to her late husband. Well, not quite identical. Luke is more muscular and masculine, though kind to kittens. The late husband was a scholar who joined the army and was killed on his first assignment, while Luke is a career Marine, coming home for Christmas with a wounded leg.

Sophia is staying at her in-laws Montana homestead for peace and quiet while they are away, and plans to have the baby there. Luke knows she is there alone, and plans to join her so they can “sort things out between them” before his parents come back. Both brothers met Sophia ten years ago, but Luke was the brother she did not get along with. Perhaps his conflicted feelings about her led him to try and put a little distance between them. He loved her, but also respected how much she and his brother loved each other. Unfortunately, he did not respect that relationship enough to move on.

Once again, it’s not clear why the hero has just waited for the heroine to become available. What if her husband hadn’t died? Was the hero just going to spend the rest of his life alone and dreaming of her? Loving and losing is deeply romantic, but loving and obsessing over what you cannot have, for ten years, is pathological. And once again, the story manages to suggest the new husband is the one true love, while the first husband was just this guy. I can handle that with separated mothers, but it seems cruel with widowed mothers. Why can’t they have two great loves? Biologically speaking, the notion that there is just one true love for each of us is not a sound reproductive strategy – you end up spending far too much time looking for your mate.

Sophia and Luke do eventually sort things out, though not without some challenges switching from in-law siblings to lovers. Sophia is appropriately creeped out by Luke’s physical similarity to her late husband,  and Luke has some minor problems switching from military to civilian life. They are helped along the way by his understanding and accepting family members, but since levirate marriages help preserve families (and male lines) that’s not surprising. The couple consummate their relationship with the usual ease and fireworks, only slightly hampered by full term pregnancy. I’m torn between the sexual novelty and the unlikelihood of her having any interest.

The story is well written and well paced, with realistic characters, and there’s enough drama in the couple’s confrontations to satisfy. But this particular niche – widow with children, second husband patiently waiting in the wings for years while first husband plays out – just does not work for me.