Brendan Millar is contemplating a major life decision. He has always thought he was meant to be a priest, but lately, there is something about his chosen vocation that doesn't feel right. Brendan takes a temporary leave from the seminary to go to the Last Place on Earth resort. The owner had previously hosted retreats for seminarians, but he recently passed away, leaving the place empty for the summer. Brendan takes on the job of handyman at the resort in hopes of finding the peace and quiet he needs to make a tough decision, but he didn't expect his solitude to be broken by a city girl stranger and his teenage niece.
Danielle Taylor has known all her life that she was adopted, but had never felt a burning need to find out more about her birth family until she discovers that her biological grandfather passed away, leaving her a rustic resort in the backwoods of Minnesota. Something about the pictures of the place beckon to her, and even though she knows the place is primitive, with no electricity or running water, she feels the need to visit it in person before making a decision about whether to sell it. She arrives to find the "priest" caretaker is a very attractive man who doesn't seem to like her very much, but nonetheless stirs her emotions. Then they are unexpectedly joined by Brendan's very pregnant niece, Jodi, who has nowhere else to go. The trio lean on each other for support as each one struggles with major life choices, and as Brendan and Dani help Jodi and her baby, they find love and romance in each other's arms. But is their relationship more than a holiday fling or will it all end when the summer is over?
Babe in the Woods is a sweet story about the importance of family and the sometimes difficult and/or painful choices that must be made in life. From this perspective the plot worked quite well. I enjoyed the interactions between Brendan and his teenage niece, Jodi, who is struggling with the consequences of her unplanned pregnancy. I also liked Dani wanting to learn more about her birth family, and figuring out how best to honor her grandfather's memory while bringing the resort he left her into the 21st century. However, the romance itself was a bit weak in my opinion, being told in a somewhat more passive way than the rest of the story. Most of the time, I felt like their attraction and feelings for one another were being told to me rather than shown. At least I could sense more of a connection during their love scenes, but those moments were rather brief and didn't have quite enough sexual tension building up to them for my taste. I was also somewhat disappointed by the ending. To me, it seemed like the several months separation that Brendan and Dani experienced could have been avoided by better communication, and there just wasn't enough excitement and spark to their reunion. Also, the outcome for Jodi's baby was not what I was expecting and rather abrupt. One minute she's with them and the next she's not, leaving me having to backtrack several pages and re-read an earlier passage to figure out what happened to her.
Danielle was a very nice heroine. She proved many times over that she was not the spoiled rich heiress that Brendan had initially thought her to be when she first arrived at the resort. While I don't think I would be too keen on spending the summer in a cabin with no electricity or running water, I admired Dani for her willingness to do so, even though she wasn't really used to such inconveniences. I also liked that she was great with kids of all ages, eagerly befriending Jodi as well as helping to care for her baby when she was born. Dani was just an easy-going, laid-back, and cool-headed woman who wasn't overly bothered by much of anything, not even leeches in the lake or the lack of indoor plumbing.
Brendan was a much more complicated character. While I did like him, he didn't quite capture my heart like many romance heroes do. I think this might be owing to all his complexities not being explored in enough depth for me to fully understand where he was coming from. His background and upbringing would have lent itself to him being a very tortured hero, yet he didn't really seem like one to me. He was just a man who was struggling with a very tough decision, namely whether to continue his training to become a priest. It was my understanding that he was essentially on a sabbatical for the summer until he made up his mind, therefore his choice to give up his long-held celibacy to make love to Dani came about a little too quickly and without enough contemplation to suit me. I was also disappointed by Brendan keeping himself so closed off from Dani and basically refusing to talk to her about his past or about his decisions regarding the priesthood until the very end of the story. Brendan being so reticent is the main thing that fueled the communication issues between them. I did like how supportive and caring he was of his niece. I also liked how he had been a really good friend to Dani's grandfather and wanted to keep the resort as natural and pristine as possible to honor his wishes.
One of the main things I enjoyed about Babe in the Woods was the setting. The author did a good job with describing the resort and how peaceful it was there. The tiny nearby town with it's few colorful residents was fun to read about too. The book could sometimes be a little dialog heavy, but at least, it had a nice natural flow to it. If Brendan had been a better communicator and the actual romance between him and Dani, as well as the ending, had been a bit stronger, this book would have gotten a higher rating from me. As is, I still mostly liked it and thought it was a worthwhile read. It was my first book by Pamela Bauer, and I generally liked her writing style enough that I'm open to possibly trying some of her other stories.
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