Baby Love (Kendrick-Coulter-Harringan Series #1)

Baby Love - Catherine Anderson This may have been the most compelling opening premise I've ever read. I cracked the book at like 2am last night (there's something wrong with me, I know this) planning to just read the first 2 or 3 pages to see if it was something I wanted to read next. Next thing you know, it was 3am. Face. Palm.Maggie Stanley is running scared. Literally. With a diaper bag and an infant she's running towards a rural Idaho train yard to hop on a boxcar, desperately trying to escape the man who viciously beat her.Rafe Kendrick is a filthy bum passed out drunk in the corner of the boxcar she hops into. The recurring dream of his dead wife and children is suddenly interrupted by a baby's wailing. His resolve to butt out and not make this his problem shatters when the other tramps in the car start to menace her and the baby falls on the floor.Both are tortured souls. Maggie is beaten, bruised and terrified of men. Rafe is haunted by the car wreck that killed his wife and two young children two years ago. Despite her fear and his determination to not get involved with another woman, they end up leaning on each other. Rafe hocks his wedding ring to put her up in a motel and buy her some baby formula.The emotions in this first third of the book are gripping. Rafe's grief bleeds through the pages. He couldn't stand the thought of going on without his family, so he walked out of the ranching operation he ran with his brother and rode the rails, finding oblivion in a whiskey bottle. He sees a second chance to do right and be needed in Maggie and her infant son Jaimie. At the same time, Maggie fights the urge to lean on Rafe. She's been terribly abused - physically, emotionally, sexually - and though she's weak from her injuries, she struggles with the need to trust him to help.Where it all started to go sort of droopy on me was when Rafe turned out to be a Surprise Millionaire Hero just past the halfway point. Why set up all this angst and drama and character building just to dash it away with dollar signs? The guy's been riding the rails for two years, hasn't contacted his family at all, then makes one quick phone call to his brother and BAMF he's flying the Cessna out to get him and Maggie and bring them to the family homestead for a love-in. It was a complete 180 in terms of emotion and tone. It went from a gritty tale of two poor souls hitting rock bottom together to a rather run of the mill rich man brings his poor bride to meet his cheerfully close family and spend all their problems away.Toss in a few plot holes (**possible spoiler though I think it's fairly evident early on** If her stepdad was raping and abusing her, that's a slam dunk to get her 10 year old sister removed from that home. You don't need to wait for proof that he's abusing the younger girl. So much needless drama there. **spoiler**) and uninspiring prose that does not justify the tendency for telling rather than showing, and it finished on a disappointing note for me. The constant praise for Maggie for letting her stepdad abuse her to keep him away from her sister and trying to keep it from her mother to spare her the distress also rankled my inner feminist. I don't find futile self-sacrifice heroic in the least. I wavered between a 3 and a 4, so I'll call it a 3.5.