If you haven't already guessed, the heroine of this book is pregnant. And she has amnesia.
Former Navy SEAL Lucas Washington is in the middle of repossessing a car when he realizes that there's an 8-month pregnant woman with a head wound in the back seat. She swears she has amnesia and can't remember anything about herself. Lucas figures she's on the run from an abusive husband or boyfriend and is lying to buy herself some time. The woman, who he decides to call "Jane," doesn't want to go to the police or the hospital, so Lucas takes her to his sister Loretta, who's a nurse. He figures that, by morning, Jane will have miraculously remembered who she is and forgiven her abusive husband/boyfriend. He has a very cynical outlook on the relationships between abusers and the abused - when he was a kid, his father used to beat him, and his mother never seemed to care enough to do anything to protect him. His only consolation was that his father at least left Loretta alone.
Jane doesn't miraculously remember who she is, and Lucas starts to believe her story when people who are apparently affiliated with the Church of Enlightenment attempt to kidnap her during a clothes shopping trip. After that, Lucas adopts a "let's go to places you can remember and see if that helps you remember more" approach to bringing Jane's memories back. Jane still doesn't want to go to the police, because she has a feeling that will only put her in more danger.
The people who are after Jane find Lucas' place. Lucas knows it wouldn't take a genius to figure out that his sister is the most likely person he would have taken Jane to, so he moves Jane to a safe house. Despite himself, Lucas has grown more and more attracted to Jane. Part of him wants to be with her, help her take care of her baby, and make a family with her. Another part of him is terrified he'll become like his father and worried that Jane has a man in her life she just hasn't remembered yet. He tries to keep his distance, but she's attracted to him too.
It's not long before Jane and Lucas learn that some people claiming to be Jane's family are looking for her. Lucas checks them out, and they seem to be telling the truth, but something doesn't feel quite right. If Jane really does have a family, Lucas knows she should go back to them, but what if there's something more going on?
Of course there's more going on. And it has to do with the Church of Enlightenment.
I'm pretty sure the first time I ever heard of this book was via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I thought the cover was Photoshopped because, well, PREGNESIA. That couldn't possibly be real, right? Wrong. The book got a C-grade, and the review pointed to lots of problems and things that wouldn't appeal to me, like a pregnant amnesiac heroine. I should note that I read the review almost two years before reading the book and purposefully did not reread it until after I'd finished the book. I didn't want the review fresh in my mind while I was reading. Even so, I still ended up noticing a lot of the same problems that the reviewer noticed - my notes are filled with "oh really?," "good grief," and "are you kidding me?"
One thing I did remember clearly about the review was the comments - specifically, Carla Cassidy's comment, which was a clear example of "authors behaving well." There seem to be so many authors lately who behave badly in the face of less-than-stellar reviews that this was a welcome change.
Anyhoo, I found my copy of this book at a used bookstore and snatched it up...because of its title and despite knowing that it dealt with certain tropes I wouldn't like. That was months and months ago. It wasn't until a few days ago that I found myself in need of cheesy fun, and Pregnesia seemed likely to fit the bill.
Harlequins are short, but, ever since slogging through Helen Bianchin's The Italian's Ruthless Marriage Command, I don't assume that the page count necessarily translates into "a quick read." That's why I was so grateful to discover that, whatever this book's faults, the one thing it's really good at is being fast-paced and a fairly quick read. I think this may be the first Harlequin Intrigue I've read - I don't usually buy them, because their covers tend to be so awful that I never even get as far as reading the back cover descriptions. However, judging by how action-oriented those covers tend to be, I'm guessing that "fast-paced" may be a requirement for the Harlequin Intrigue line. The next time I go used book shopping, I might have to pick up more Harlequin Intrigue books, because fast-paced romance can be a good thing at times.
If I do get more Harlequin Intrigues, however, I will try to get some that have fewer personal red flags than Pregnesia. I wasn't kidding when I said that the only thing that drew me to Pregnesia was its title. I might have been able to live with a romance novel featuring amnesia, depending on how it was handled, but an 8-month pregnant heroine - actually, a heroine who is pregnant, period - is so not my cup of tea. There is nothing I find less romantic in a romance novel than pregnant heroines, children, or babies. I will usually not even pick up a romance novel from the library (where my reading choices tend to be a bit more adventurous, since they are free) if it features any of these things, unless the author is Nora Roberts.
So, those who like or at least don't mind 8-month pregnant romance novel heroines should probably take this entire post with a grain of salt.
Like I said, this is an incredibly fast-paced story. Lucas falls in lust almost immediately, Jane (I'll call her this, even though it's not her real name) falls in lust once the head wound doesn't get in the way quite so much, and the two decide they are in love by the end of the book. Since the book's events only span maybe three or four weeks, that's a fast romance. It's a good thing that, with a title like Pregnesia, I went into this with lowered expectations.
Jane is the kind of romance heroine I tend to hate, a tiny blond with "the biggest, bluest eyes he'd ever seen." Oh, gag. She spends a lot of the book crying, and it was unclear to me whether she really wanted to stay out of danger. She repeatedly says that she doesn't want to go to the police, because she has a feeling that this will put her in even greater danger, but she has absolutely no problems with allowing Lucas to take her places she remembers having been, even though this increases her chances of coming across the dangerous people who are looking for her.
I wasn't all that impressed with Lucas, either. For a former Navy SEAL, he's awfully brainless about a lot of things. Considering that the chief of police is his friend, you'd think he would've tried harder to get Jane to agree to talk to the police. I didn't really understand why he was ok with sending a glass with Jane's fingerprints on it in to be analyzed, but he never thought to arrange a meeting between his police chief friend and Jane somewhere away from the police station.
Then there's the way Lucas dealt with all the various signs of danger. After his place is broken into, Lucas immediately realizes that people who are after Jane will soon figure out that his sister's place is the next most likely place Jane might be. Before meeting Jane, Loretta, Lucas' sister, was the most important person in his life. You'd think it would be a given that Lucas would fear for his sister's safety. Even if Jane wasn't at Loretta's place anymore, who's to say Jane's pursuers wouldn't decide to hurt Loretta or hold her hostage? But no, Lucas never even thinks about that. Instead, he hauls Jane off to a safe house and leaves his sister alone. You've gotta be kidding me.
Lucas' idiocy doesn't stop there. Instead of laying low after Jane is almost kidnapped, he takes her out to try to jog her memory with familiar places. True, I believe he has a gun on him all those times, but still. It seems overly risky, especially since 8-month pregnant Jane probably isn't mobile enough to get away from and outrun attackers, if Lucas were incapacitated or somehow separated from her. Also, taking Jane to lots of places advertises her whereabouts and who she's with to the people who are looking for her. That, combined with Lucas sometimes leaving Jane alone later on, doesn't seem very bright.
So, I was generally iffy about Jane and astounded at Lucas' partially missing brain. I also wasn't enthused by Jane's pregnancy, and not just because I don't find 8-month pregnant women to be conducive to romance. Jane is basically only pregnant in her belly. And in her lower back, although that disappears whenever it's inconvenient for her to have lower back pain. In fact, there's one part (which I can't find right now) where Lucas finds himself thinking how tiny and slender Jane is, with her pregnancy being like a ball in her belly but otherwise not affecting any other part of her appearance. That was an OMG passage for me. Jane is apparently not a pregnant woman, but rather just a woman with backaches and a basketball under her blouse. And the backaches are really just a way to ease the story into a sort-of sex scene.
One of the things I wondered when I started this book was how and whether Cassidy was actually going to include a sex scene between Jane and Lucas. Jane starts the whole thing, because Lucas, despite being totally in lust, is somewhat reluctant to make a move on a woman who obviously had a man in her life 8 months ago and may still have one in her life now. Also, he figures that Jane, being pregnant, is probably interested in a relationship rather than just sex, and Lucas is still afraid he's going to become like his abusive father.
Anyway, at one point Jane says she has a feeling that there is no longer a man in her life (right, because trusting an amnesiac to know something like that is such a good idea). Jane has Lucas rub her back because it's aching again, she moans a lot, he gets turned on, and Jane decides to move things to the next level. Lucas' resistance crumbles. The only reason Jane doesn't attempt to have actual sex with Lucas is because she has heard that sex can cause 8-month pregnant women to go into labor early. What does she do instead? A hand job. That's this book's one and only sex scene: a very pregnant woman giving a guy a hand job. You know, I don't need sex scenes in my romance novels - I think I could have done without one in this one. I had problems not rolling my eyes every time, later on in the book, either Lucas or Jane thought about how wonderful their night together was.
Oh, random thought connected to the whole "Jane is just a woman with a basketball under her blouse" thing: can an 8-month pregnant woman really "scoot" from the passenger's side of a car to the driver's side and back again? That can be hard enough to do gracefully when you're not pregnant - you'd think Jane would have had an enormously awkward time of it, if she could have even done it at all.
The last 50 or so pages of the book are just...I'm not sure I can do it justice. The book's villain seems somewhat confused about whether he wants Jane's baby or wants to kill her. If he had shot her, was his plan to then quickly cut Jane's baby out of her belly and get the baby to an on-site doctor? And when Lucas and his former Navy SEAL friends come to rescue Jane...there are so many potential problems with their "plan." They somehow manage to get hold of the floor plans to the house in just a matter of hours, and yet they don't know if the fence around the place is electrified. The number of other unknown dangers they might have had to deal with is mind-boggling. And not one of the guys seems to think about the possibility of being arrested, even though, if I remember right, one of them has a new fiancee and one of them has a pregnant wife. These guys have a lot to lose, they just don't act like they do.
Overall, this book was a quick read, which was just what I needed at the time, but not a very good one. Had Jane just been an amnesiac, and not a pregnant amnesiac, I might have been able to like this book a bit more than I did. I certainly wouldn't have been quite so turned off by the sexual interest developing between Lucas and Jane. Lucas would still have been a bit brainless, and the story still would have had occasional logic problems, but I could have just sat back and accepted it all as good, cheesy fun. As it was, yay, I can finally say I've read Pregnesia, but there is no way I'm ever rereading this. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, 8-month pregnant romance novel heroines are not my thing.
On to the read-alikes. Coming up with read-alikes for category romances still requires that I read a lot of reviews. In this case, everything in the list below is something I haven't read. Even so, it wasn't a hard list to come up with. Romancelandia is filled with pregnant amnesiacs and pregnant women who fall for amnesiacs.
(UPDATE: I forgot to mention, but this book is part of a series. The other two books are also by Cassidy: Interrogating the Bride and Heiress Recon.)
- Prim, Proper...Pregnant (book) by Alice Sharpe - Another book with a pregnant heroine and an amnesiac, but in this book they aren't the same person. Amelia works up the courage to tell Ryder that she's pregnant with his child, after not having seen him for four months. He acts like a complete bastard about it. Ryder gets drunk and, with this twin brother Rob in the passenger side, gets into a terrible wreck. Rob is dead and Ryder has amnesia. Amelia grudgingly takes care of Ryder during his recovery and it seems like amnesia has turned him into a wonderful person, completely unlike the man he was before his accident. I haven't read this one, but I can see the ending coming from a mile away. Still, from what I can tell from the reviews I've read, the characters are fairly enjoyable.
- Deputy Daddy (book) by Charlotte Maclay - If you'd like another romance riddled with unbelievability and starring a heroine who is a very pregnant amnesiac, you might want to try this. Again, this isn't one I've read. The heroine has been in a car accident and can't remember who she is. When she wakes up, she is convinced that the man who found her, the chief of police of the town where she had her accident, is her husband. On the advice of the doctor taking care of the heroine, the guy reluctantly agrees to pretend to be her husband.
- Father Found (book) by Muriel Jensen - Another book featuring an amnesiac pregnant woman for a heroine. The heroine is also potentially in great danger, having already been pushed into a river once (which caused her amnesia). Those looking for both suspense and a pregnant amnesiac heroine might want to try this.
- When Baby Was Born (book) by Jodi O'Donnell - Another pregnant woman with amnesia, although, in this case, the heroine gives birth fairly on, with the help of the hero. The heroine, Sara, had hoped that Cabe would have some idea who she was. When Cabe looks at the note that led Sara to him, he immediately knows that it's his estranged brother's handwriting. Although he is falling for Sara, he now has to wonder if Sara and his brother were in a relationship. A woman had come between him and his brother before, and he's determined not to let it happen again.