Book Review

Judy Christenberry’s Who’s the Daddy?


Title: Who's the Daddy?
Author: Judy Christenberry
Publication Info: Harlequin Books 1995
ISBN: 037316579X
Genre: Contemporary Romance

In order to prevent any attempts to maim yourself, you should read this book equipped with a phrase rotation of the following:

Are you shitting me?
Come on, now.
Who are you kidding?
Do you think I’m that stupid?


You must also suspend reality enough to just go for a ride on the Harlequin “Yes, someone there thinks the readership is as dumb as a small box of poop” Publishing Express directly to Campy Romance Land. This is, without a doubt, the kind of book that gives romance readers the reputation that we are dumb sheep who will read anything handed to us. The only thing that stopped this book from being an outright F is that it was kind of fun to be horrified by this train wreck of a novel after awhile, once I got over the initial feeling of insult that someone in the publishing department must think I am stupid. And I’m not saying that I’m not. I mean, I PAID for this copy. Used, yes, but still, money did change hands.

Who’s the Daddy? is the incredulous tale of Caroline Atkins, who awakes in a hospital bed after an barely-described accident that has left her in a state of breathtaking amnesia. She can remember the chauffer and her favorite drink, but she cannot remember anything else, including her family, the two toadies who follow her father everywhere, and, surprise!, what happened two months prior that would leave her pregnant.

Seems that this book was published well before patient confidentiality was something that hospitals cared about, because Dr. Dumbass blurts out her condition in front of her parents, the toadies, her also-pregnant-and-annoying-as-well sister, and her sister’s husband. He might as well have done a song and dance routine down the hallway.

Here is where your phrase collection begins to come in handy. Now’s about the time I said, “Are you SHITTING me?” At two months, one with any medical knowledge might have the brain cell function to think that perhaps, if the patient IS pregnant, she might not have TOLD anyone. And Dr. Dumbass doesn’t have the foresight to think perhaps he’s messed up in spilling the buns, here (Note: not beans. There are no beans in this oven).

No, it’s all part of a concerted effort on the part of all these cardboard characters to Drive the Plot Forward at All Costs. Kind of like pushing a Nash downhill: when it’s that heavy, it’ll start rolling and move on its own momentum, but it takes a big shove to get it going.

Caroline, her overbearing bonehead father, her vapid charity-obsessed mother, and the two toadies, the sister, the sister’s husband, and – hello! – the hot studly construction worker man who just came barrelling into her hospital room, all want to know one thing: WHO is the FATHER of this CHILD?

Not, “When will she get her memory back?” Not, “Shall we put her in a facility to enable the resurrection of her brain’s memory?” Not, “Should she be released from the hospital?” But “Who is the father because dammit no child in THIS family is going to be illegitimate!”

Seriously, her father is more worried about who’s the babydaddy than he is about the fact that his admittedly favorite daughter cannot remember her phone number, because he has got a wedding to plan. Or, at least, make his wife plan while he spends money on it. The issue of her amnesia is treated as an inconvenience by everyone, including Caroline, who is released to her family’s care barely a few hours after she was admitted to the hospital after the “accident” that left her with no lasting injuries other than a headache and the inability to remember anything about her life up until that morning.

Come ON, Now

Caroline’s father demands, as she is being released, to know who the babydaddy is, and the two toadies from his office and the hunky construction worker all step forward to say, “I am.” Caroline has no idea who any of them are, but she thinks the hunky construction worker dude is damn hot.

After she returns home from the hospital, looks through her closet at all the mysterious clothes that she doesn’t recognize as belonging to her- though she DOES of course recognize that the labels are all designer and high-end – and introduces herself to the housekeeper, who is a kind, truthful, and noble sort, just as a housekeeper made of stock-character-cardboard should be, Caroline gets down to work: time to figure out who the babydaddy is.

She invites hunky construction man to dinner, and asks Mrs. Lamb, the housekeeper who she allegedly calls “Lambie,” –

Who are you kidding?!

– to set up a romantic dinner for two. Her father, of course, being the overbearing blowhard that he, as a stock-character-cardboard father, should be, rearranges things and cancels her dinner for two. He tells Mrs. Lamb(ie) to set an extra three settings at dinner – and invites Prescott and Adrian, the two toadies, to dinner as well, so that they can press their suit as Caroline’s future husband and father of her baby.

Caroline is none too pleased, but instead of telling that officious, pompous buttmonkey to go blow it out his ass, she makes Max, hottie construction guy, sit down at dinner with the two toadies and her entire, insane family, and put up with the lot of them through a meal. Suspend reality, folks, because the Plot Must Be Driven Forward and these people Must Interact.

Now here’s where it gets really, really good. Max charms Caroline’s mother, ignores her sister – who is livid that her older sister is stealing her thunder by also being pregnant – and goes chasing after Caroline after she leaves the table in a fit of gestational nausea.

After the romance of helping her hurl, they have a moment wherein, sitting on the bathroom floor, she leans into him and he almost kisses her. There is NO MENTION of teeth brushing, either. Post-vomit kissing! Now THAT is a new one!

Do you think I’m STUPID?

Caroline and Max continue to see each other, and the mystery unfolds: who IS the babydaddy? What do Prescott and Adrian hope to gain by proposing marriage under the watchful urging of her father and accepting the mystery baby as their own? Is it just to get at Caroline’s money and at her father’s company? And what happened that Max and Caroline stopped seeing each other? Oh, the questions, they pile up. Emphasis on “pile.”

Caroline herself is one of those romance heroines we love to loathe: she’s described as “feisty” and in the first few pages almost comes across as somewhat snarky and strong. But then she’s faced with two men she doesn’t particularly like and one she can’t keep her hands off of, all claiming to be her babydaddy, so she does what any “feisty” heroine would do:

She promises her father she’ll marry the first man who provides “proof” that he’s the babydaddy. Because she’s caused her family enough embarrassment by being pregnant in the first place. And even as she comes to seriously distrust and dislike the babydaddy candidate who has “proof,” she still upholds her “promise” to her father that she will marry this unlikeable toad, because she… has to do what her father says.

Mm-hah! That’s some feisty heroine!

It almost seemed that the author went back and forth between “feisty” and “limp fish” because Caroline does have moments where you think, “Ah ha! She’s remembered her spine!” and then, faced with Daddy’s disapproval, she goes back to following orders.

I mean, check out this conversation:

“..You keep hanging on to that other man, the one you’re infatuated with.”
“I’m not infatuated with Max, Daddy. I love him. And he loves me.”
“Then why are you marrying Adrian? That’s not fair to him.”
She clenched her teeth in frustration. “I’m marrying Adrian because I promised you, and because he offered proof that he’s the father of my baby. But I don’t love him.”
“But, Caroline, it’s only fair that you marry him. After all, you’ve admitted that’s his baby.”
“No, I haven’t. I said he offered proof.”

Are you as confused as I am? It’s not fair to marry him if you don’t love him, but it is fair to marry him because he went through the trouble of offering proof that he’s the babydaddy.

There are some plot holes I can’t figure out, and of course I don’t want to give away all the crazy wacky bits of the story because someone will ultimately read this book just to see if it’s as insane as I say (Yes it is, trust me) But some things just don’t add up.

For example, according to the story, Max and Caroline had a whirlwind affair for two weeks, and Max was under the impression that she was new to the area. He took her on tours, drove her around, tried to help her find a job – and after they had hot hot sex, she ran away. He woke up, she was gone, and what the hell happened?

Then he hears her name on the radio following her accident – so she’s big enough of a name in the city that her accident MAKES the NEWS yet when he meets her, he’s never heard of her, or of her family, or of the family company. And when he hires a private investigator, even the PI recognizes the name. So how did he not know who she was?

But what drove me to collapse in fits of laughter and screaming was when it was T-minus one day until the wedding, and she tells Max that she needs him to be there, in the church pews, watching as she marries this other buffoon who has “proof.” She loves him so much she needs him to be there to support her as she marries someone else.

Now that, gentle readers, is love. And a “feisty” heroine.

Ultimately you do find out who the babydaddy is, but it’s more of a quest to disprove two of the contenders so the lustful pair can live happily ever after, and all the way to the end, the amnesia is almost an afterthought. But the ride to that happy ending is so completely bizarre, it’s almost worth buying a copy of the book used, just to tell people how truly bizarre the story is.

As I stated earlier, what made me angry about this book was that it seemed to assume I would accept any number of vacillations of character on the part of the heroine, that I would accept a heroine who would do as her father said even if she couldn’t remember her father in the first place, and that I would accept a hero who would put up with a heroine who put her father’s chauvinistic and inconsistent demands over her own desires and a hero who would never ask that she grow the hell up already.

He needed to grow a pair, she needed another hit on the head, the father needed sensitivity training and a clue, and I need to go find another book fast to get the taste of this one out of my mouth.

Comments are Closed

  1. OK, now you really do need to read Getting Rid of Bradley.  Consider it mental floss to get out any sticky bits of this novel that may be stuck between brain cells, clogging up the works and causing mental decay.

  2. Amanda says:

    O.M.G. I can barely breathe from laughing so hard.

    Honestly, the James Frey controversy is nothing compared to this schlock. HQ actually paid for this?! The world must be ending.

  3. You need an enema after a book like that.

  4. SB Sarah says:

    Seriously, I have never before been completely dumbfounded by a book. It almost needed its own proofreader solely for continuity issues.

    And yes, I need a mental enema.

  5. KariBelle says:

    Thanks.  Way to “take one for the team!”  Now quick, go read at least the first few chapters of Bradley before the end of the day so you can dream about sexy cops and cute doggies rather than slimey taodies and clueless construction workers with vomit-breath fetishes.

  6. Post vomit kissing. Oh. My. God. I have never had anyone try to smooch me after holding my hair back after one too many shots, and I am now glad, since there is apparently those who are into that sort of thing.

  7. DebR says:

    Thank you Thank you for reading the book so we don’t have to!!  I was saying “omigawd” and “you’re shitting me” (in between giggles) just reading the review, never mind the book!

    Quick, quick, go grab the Crusie or the MJD and banish the babydaddy from your memory (har!).

  8. fiveandfour says:

    So I guess what you’re saying is that, despite the 3 dudes and a pregnant chick on the cover, this book did not feature lots of hot monkey-lovin’, a la Emma Holly. 

    Damn cover – that’s what I call false advertising!

  9. Jennifer says:

    OK, don’t tell me. She trips walking down the aisle, smacks her head on the pew, and remembers who the daddy is just in time not to go through the wedding with Adrian, right? And then she cries a lot (I’m so Sorry Daddy that you had to go through this) and acts noble (I’m sorry Adrian, but I can’t marry you, you lied about the proof…)
    And what is that expression about the proof of the pudding is in the sauce? Wouldn’t a blood test have straightened all this out?
    At any rate, I’m SO glad you reviewed this book and spared me the frustration of spending money in order to satisfy my morbid curiosity.

  10. Laura V says:

    Sarah, thanks for reading this so that the rest of us don’t have to. But what was the ‘proof’ that the not-babydaddy produced? Please, please tell!

  11. SB Sarah says:

    OK: the proof was so not in his pudding.


    The proof was a photo of the two of them in Vegas cuddling, with a date stamped on the corner that would indicate she was in Vegas with anti-babydaddy instead of with hunky construction man during the Important Period of Time.

    But the problem with his pudding, I mean, proof, was that in the photo she was wearing a brown dress. And she NEVER wears brown! Ever!

  12. Sarah, your review was too kind. What an awful book! It’s a shame it was printed at all.

  13. Michelle says:

    I think the entire purpose of the book was that so you could review it, come up with better lines (than was in the book) and provide us all with a dearly needed laugh.

  14. Robin says:

    I would go for the Crusie next (I still haven’t made it all the way through Derik’s Bane, so I can’t comment on that one—unless I just did, of course!). With a couple of exceptions, I rarely feel attracted to her heroes (I love the way she draws relationships among women, though, and wish there were more of that in Romance).  But I found the hero of Bradley nicely sexy, which gave the book an extra zing for me.

  15. Arethusa says:


  16. Sarahk says:

    You don’t need a mental enema, books like this are mental enemas. When I have really bad PMS I buy the worst romance novel I can find (usually a Harlequin Presents) and the best most expensive chocolate. After eating the chocolate while spending an hour alternately yelling at the heroine and hero for their illogical, moronic behavior, praying they die before they can reproduce secretly and sobbing at the sheer awfulness of it all I am safe to return to the world. It works for me.

  17. April says:

    The gem in this entire post is the whole thing about the post-vomit kissing. I haven’t heard anything quite as unsexy as that since one of my friends from high school proudly announced that she burped into her boyfriend’s mouth while kissing him.

  18. Maman says:

    If I recall correctly, the woman who wrote that diaperfiller has written more books in that bizarro sub-genre.  It sounds like she must be stopped befor she scars someone for life!

  19. I never burped into their mouth while kissing, but one of my exes and I used to try to bust each other by getting into a serious kiss and then suddenly puff air in so their cheeks bulged out. I have no idea why.

  20. Stef says:

    I am giving it all I’ve got not to laugh.  I feel too guilty.

    What’s up with that?  If this author was a stranger, I’d be rolling in the floor, but since I know her, and can picture her very sweet face, I’m biting my tongue off.

    OFF, I say.  And it’s damned painful.

  21. Ah. My pet peeve. “Soap Opera Amnesia.”

    That’s the kind of amnesia which conveniently fits the needs of the drama or plot (if indeed there is a plot), but which in fact is completely and totally BIOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO ACHIEVE.

    Who is this bitch, you ask. What the hell does she know about concussions and brain injury?

    A lot. It’s what I do all day. At night, I slave writing hot sweaty romances, but by day, I’m a neuropsychologist. A brain shrink.

    And trust me—the kind of amnesia you just described only happens because of emotional trauma, never physical trauma (e.g., it can be “hysterical,” or even faked by the patient to suit a need, but it isn’t biologically real).

    In other words, this isn’t it’s not real. It can’t happen. Did I mention that? So, there’s a plot hole large enough to maneuver a battleship through.


    This kind of crap makes me crazy. I never crit another author’s writing, but sometimes the research—or lack thereof—completely pisses me off.

    By the way, I love this website. I vist every day because it makes me laugh and keeps me grounded. I will love it even when you skewer one of my books, call my hero an ass-face, or completely snark my covers.

    Bitch on.

    Annie Windsor

  22. runswithscissors says:

    Maybe there should be an SBTB medal of honour: for services to romance above and beyond the call of duty.  When I think of what you did for us, reading that book cover to cover (maybe even rereading some sections to check if it truly was as bad as you thought) … well, I just choke up.

  23. I’m waiting for Harlequin to come out with a “Guys in Prison” series.  I’m sure as many women fantasize about inmates as they do about Nascar drivers.  At least, I do.

  24. Arethusa says:

    ok *deep breath* I’ve finally stopped laughing long enough to register my disappointment about the lack of group sex. (I know, I know, too much to hope for.) I’m now going to re-read the spoiler filled “proof” that one of the characters gave and resume laughing hysterically.

    Thank you Sarah, for taking this one for the team. Surely the karma reaped from this deed has you set for life.

  25. bam says:

    Awesome review, Sarah! I almost want to read it… the way you should read this crazy ass book, The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier.

    It’s frickin’ crazy. And the hero? An actual psycho.

  26. Alyssa says:

    This review is hilarious! I’m almost tempted to read the book because it sounds like one of those books you enjoy reading because it’s bad.

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