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From the Publisher“Harper’s novel of romantic suspense, tells a compelling story that contrasts rich and poor and weds mystery and love.”
Booklist on The Baby Farm
A car horn blared, then began a pulsing throb that drowned out even the tattoo of rain on the tin roof. Emma Weston jumped up from the breakfast table so fast she banged her knee.
Groaning, she limped onto the side porch, and squinted through the gray slant of rain at an old black pickup scabbed with rust. Many locals drove similar trucks. The throb of the horn accented the beat of loud country music pouring from the truck cab. She couldn't see who was driving, but someone rolled down the passenger's-side window.
It was Wade Poteet, freckled and as gangly as a corn-stalk. Newly in his teens, he was the eldest child in a family of seven from way up Mudbrook Holler. What was he doing here? she wondered. No Poteet should be needing a midwife.
Even when the music was turned down, she couldn't hear what he was yelling, so she shrugged and raised both hands, palms up. Dripping wet even before he got out, his feet caked with red mud, Wade barreled up onto the porch and shook himself like a dog.
"Everything to rights at home?" Emma asked, her stomach already churning with concern.
"It's Miz Amrine at the old Settle place. Says she needs you real bad."
"Oh no. Is she having pains or bleeding?"
Though already flushed from exertion, the boy reddened to the roots of his hair. Most Appalachian males didn't want any part of women's work, and bringing babies into the world was surely that.
"It's just I been fixin' up that old tractor she got settin' in the shed to sell," he went on in a rush. "Gonna buy nice things for the baby, she said, and pay your fee with it. But she come a' runnin' out all het up and shouts to fetch you quick."
"You're a good neighbor, Wade. I'll go right up to see her," Emma said and tore into the house.
Amrine Settle was not due for at least several weeks, and she'd shown no warning signs. Worse, she lived alone in a ramshackle place where they'd turned off her electricity and phone for not making payments, and she wouldn't let Emma pay the bills. The stove, refrigerator and downstairs lights worked off an old generator. At least Amrine still had running water, though many a mountain midwife had washed a newborn in a rain barrel.
Even before she heard the truck drive away, Emma had dropped her fetoscope, to monitor fetal heartbeat, and hanging infant scales into plastic sacks and placed them in her big duffel bag. Grabbing her kit, she stuffed in scissors straight from the sterilizer. Seizing a new bottle of Betadine, she closed it into a resealable bag. She darted to the fridge for her special labor-aide, a mix of honey, water, salt, lemon juice, crushed calcium tablets and curing herbs.
She snapped her kit closed and zipped the duffel bag. From the old deer-antler rack by the door, she yanked off the neon-green, hooded slicker and pulled it over her T-shirt and jeans. Grabbing the beeper, she rushed out the door.
"Damn," she whispered and turned back to lock it, something she often forgot to do in these changing times when tourists and thieves were too often one and the same. She stuck the key under a crock of pansies.
Sprinting for the big shed where she kept the Jeep, she remembered she hadn't left a note for Ola Grady, who would be walking in. The girl was scheduled for a prenatal checkup, but her clients understood emergencies, and they all knew where the key was. Amrine needs you real bad, she heard the boy's words again. She and Amrine had always needed each other. They'd been good friends as long as she could remember.
Emma glanced at her watch. Only seven minutes had passed since Wade had come. At least she had the thick plastic top already zipped on the Jeep.
She looked in the rearview mirror to back out and glimpsed how worried she looked, older than her twenty-seven years. Her tires spit gravel. She roared past the old farmhouse she'd been slowly renovating and the sign she'd painted herself, now slick with rain and swinging in the wind: Shelter Birthing and Women's Health Center, Emma Weston, C.N.M. But locals called it the Baby Farm.
"Dr. Cusak'll see you now, Ola."
Griff Cusak hunched his broad shoulders and grimaced. He could hear the piercing voice of his licensed practical nurse, Wanda Keck, clear back here in his office. He needed an R.N. and a softer-voiced receptionist, but Wanda was it for now. Since he'd been sentenced to three years in Shelter, he'd had to do without a lot of things he'd taken for granted in Lexington. He could only hope that his Lady Bountiful, the health center's sponsor, Delia Lowe, soon found someone who suited them both.
"You sure you're eighteen, Ola, like you put down here?" he heard Wanda shrill. "I swear I thought you was born the year my brother Lester, so you'd be - why, barely fifteen."
Fifteen? Another underage, unwed, pregnant girl, Griff thought. This might be the hills of southeastern Kentucky, but hadn't anyone ever heard of birth control?
"I'm goin' in with her," an older woman whined.
"I'm her ma, and she wants me there."
"I know you're her ma, Ginger. But she's obviously not a kid anymore, having one a her own. "Sides, Dr. Cusak has his own way a doing things so -"
Griff hurtled out of his office and poked his head into the otherwise empty waiting room. The two Grady women resembled each other with their kinky red hair and long faces - though Ola was bulbously pregnant.
"That's fine, Wanda," Griff said, holding the door open and forcing a smile as he took the clipboard from her. "If Ola agrees, Mrs. Grady is welcome, too. Ola? ..." he prompted, trying to get the girl to make eye contact with him.
He thought she would refuse to follow him, but her mother shot her a sharp look. "Sure, okay. But I been seeing Emma Weston, the midwife," Ola blurted, getting up slowly. Her mouth turned sulky, her ice-blue eyes more cold and defiant.
"So your mother told Wanda on the phone." He tried to keep his voice calm as he ushered them down the hall toward the examining room. "It shows good judgment you've decided to seek more complete care now. And since you're well into your last trimester, I want you to get what I would hope is an extensive file from Ms. Weston for me, so I can more effectively bring your little one into the world."
Excerpted from The Baby Farm by Karen Harper Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted December 27, 2010
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This is my second novel by Karen Harper, and im still impressed. She writes well, and has many twists and turns in her novels. The same goes for this one "The Baby Farm." It keeps you guessing until the very end, and you really have no idea who the one is that is conducting an adoption ring. While reading, you come to love Emma and Griff, while your rooting for their relationship as well as their findings on who is selling babies. Great Book, even if it took a few chapters to get exciting. Higly recommended to fans of Harper, and the mystery/thriller genre!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2005
This is the first Karen Harper book that I read and I found it enjoyable. It wasn't a sit on the edge of your seat suspense but it was never boring. The plot had some twists and turns and the characters were well portrayed. In the mist of the mystery of stolen babies there was a romance. The romance was between Griff and Emma who were both likable even with their own personal flaws and you can't help but want them to be successful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2004
I don't really know what was wrong with this book, but I never had a problem putting it down to do something else. Normally, I am very anxious to get back to my book, but not with this one. I finished it, though, but I'm sure I'll quickly forget it. This was my first read of this author. I'll probably try another one -- maybe this book just wasn't for me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2001