About the Baby

Tracy Wolff
November 2012, Series Romance
Harlequin SR #1816, $5.50, 288 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373718160
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

Every once in a while I find that I enjoy a book for aspects other than the romance. That is what happened with About the Baby, the latest release by Tracy Wolff.

Kara Steward and Lucas Montgomery have been best friends for seventeen years. While their careers as doctors have taken then in different directions, they are each other’s lodestone. Kara decided on a career as an epidemiologist working for the CDC. Her job takes her to many hot spots around the world, especially Africa. She has been working for the CDC for ten years now and disillusionment is causing her to question if what she does even makes a difference. It used to be the epidemiologist or team leader decided when an epidemic was contained enough for the team to leave. Now politicians, politics, and policies control that. Just recently she was in Somalia with a cholera outbreak and her team was pulled out before they isolated the root of the outbreak. And she needed to spend six to eight more weeks on education. She knows that within three months the disease will have re-occurred and spread to even more areas.

Returning to Atlanta, she immediately looks up her best friend, Lucas. Lucas knows that something is going on with Kara. She only gets silly and lighthearted when she is troubled. However, she has never been able to keep a secret from him. Finally she confides that she is thinking of leaving the CDC. Lucas experienced the same hopelessness fighting against the unrelenting death and poverty when he did his stint with For the Children, one of the leading organizations that bring doctors to developing countries. However, he got out early, and now runs a low income clinic in one of the poorest parts of Atlanta. But before they can even finish their conversation, Kara’s boss Paul calls. Ebola has broken out in Eritrea and it has spread to every major southern city. Since hemorrhagic viruses are her specialty, and the infection rate on this outbreak is very uncharacteristic, Paul needs her on the case. Has the virus mutated and become an airborne pathogen?

Lucas is furious that she is going back out in the field less than 48 hours after just returning home. Not only is he worried about her safety, he’s worried about her mental health. They quarrel, leaving Lucas frustrated that Kara is putting herself in danger and Kara sorry that she even confided in him. But one thing leads to another, and that night their relationship crosses a boundary from friends to lovers. Three months later, while in Africa, Kara discovers she is pregnant with his baby.

After reading the first chapter or two, I had to take a break, because honestly it make me feel guilty that I have so much and other people have so little. Ms. Wolff hit the nail on the head, when she has Kara talk about how the locals, relief workers, mercenaries and warlords have a special acronym for life there – TIA, meaning “This is Africa.” And to a certain extent I think the many people have come to assume that poverty and illness, death and dying are just the way it is there. Nevertheless, even though it made me feel uncomfortable, I admire and respect Ms. Wolff’s ardor in writing a story that shines a light on acceptance of unendurable conditions and a way of life.

Kara and Lucas are admirable characters. How can you not like individuals that have dedicated their lives and livelihood to working with the poor? Still I found part of their characterization problematic. First they have been close friends for seventeen years, but Kara is very conscious of not burdening him or truly needing him because she doesn’t want to contribute to the already heavy obligations he is under, taking care of his irresponsible, extravagant mother and sisters. Also she learned at an early age from her parents that people are not dependable, leaving me to question the strength and closeness of their friendship.

Lucas despairs of his mother and sisters but doesn’t seem to realize that he is enabling them. And his way of wanting to help is to come up with a solution to the problem, instead of just listening. Not a great combination with Kara, who doesn’t want help.

These issues are part of the conflict between the two – which is a realistic conflict, but the road to character growth is confusing with both Lucas and Kara trying to take care of the other and both rejecting help when offered. The storyline hits both characters with life altering difficulties and each seem to try to outdo the other by providing unsolicited support. Couples do support each other, but Kara and Lucas don’t seem to realize this and continue with their “I am a rock, I am an island” attitude, which gets tiresome.

Still, Ms. Wolff's passion for her topic and the meticulous research left me thinking of the story long after I closed the book.

-- Leigh Davis

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