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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

Baby Love

by Louisa Young

 

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Summary

This is Book 1 in the Angeline Gower Trilogy of books. The central character of all three books, Angeline, is a former belly dancer whose dance career was ended by a disabling accident.

In Baby Love, Angeline is raising her late sister's daughter as a single parent. Life becomes complicated when the child's biological father shows up after 3 years of no contact, demanding custody of the girl.

Baby Love

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Baby Love

Author

Louisa Young

ISBN

0-00-655081-9

Publisher

Flamingo

Category

Fictional Crime/Thriller

Rating

StarStarStar

Number of Pages

256

Published In

1997

 

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Description

This book is fiction in the crime/thriller genre. The story line centers around Angeline, a former belly dancer whose dance career ended when a motorcycle accident killed her unmarried pregnant sister and injured her leg so severely that she would never dance again. The sister's baby was saved through Caesarian, so now Angeline is a single parent, raising the child and making her living as a writer.

After three years of no contact, the little girl's biological father has suddenly emerged to demand custody of the child. This conflict serves as the core plot of the book. Remembering the many bruises that her sister had received from this man, Angeline puts herself at personal risk to retain custody of little Lily and protect the child from her potentially abusive father.

Personal risk is the theme that drives the plot of this book. Angeline turns for help to people that she realizes she can't fully trust, and those people take advantage of her vulnerability. To make matters worse, Angeline learns about secrets of the past that continue to haunt her life today — secrets that shake the very foundation of what she thought she knew about people she was close to.

Sprinkled in among the plot are many references to belly dancing and Middle Eastern culture. Angeline reminisces about things that occurred in her performances back when she was still dancing, reflects on the history of the dance, and thinks about things she learned and observed during her travels in the Middle East.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You're looking for fiction that contains a tie-in to belly dancing.
  • You enjoy the genre of crime thrillers.
  • The type of fiction you enjoy is light reading with a touch of humor.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You dislike story lines that have predictable elements.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • Once the book got past the slow start, the plot line picked up and the story held my attention. By the time I reached the end, I was interested enough to go forward with reading the remaining two books in the trilogy.
  • There are enough plot twists and turns to hold my interest and make it fun to see what would happen next.
  • The story is told in the first person by the main character, Angeline. Her wry observations and feisty comments regarding the weirdness going on around her gave me a number of chuckles. The sense of humor keeps the tone of the book light and entertaining, despite the fact that it's generally a crime thriller in nature.
  • Angeline develops as an interesting character with a strong will, and I found myself cheering for her to triumph over all the men who were trying to control her.
  • I could relate to Angeline as a characer (except for a few issues, which I have described below under "What I Didn't Like). For example, it rang true when, complaining about how many people see the dance as just a sexy thing to seduce men, she said, "I'm the only person who thought there was anything other than titillation in my dancing, my joy, my pleasure, my work."

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • The book gets off to a slow start. I was rather bored as I made my way through the first few chapters. Throughout about the first half, I kept waiting for it to pick up. Finally, it did.
  • As someone who has been a belly dancer myself since 1981, I found Angeline's character to be a bit implausible. Very few dancers who perform regularly in nightclubs also happen to have such in-depth knowledge of dance history and Middle Eastern culture, and even fewer find that knowledge to be sufficient to earn them a living once they retire from dance. Often, when Angeline reflected on how the history of the dance or the Middle Eastern culture related to her situation of the moment, I found myself thinking, "Yeah, right, if I was in that situation I wouldn't be sitting around comparing what's going on around me to the Ouled Nail." I'm not saying it's impossible that a former dancer somewhere might do that, but it is highly unlikely.
  • For someone who seems so deeply into the dance and Middle Eastern culture, it's strange that Angeline doesn't talk about her ongoing friendships with fellow dancers or demonstrate an ongoing interest in periodically visiting the clubs just for the joy of listening to live music and watching other people dance. She mentions her Egyptian friend Zeinab, but aside from that her only comments about other dancers are about mean-spirited competition. The majority of retired dancers I know have retained close friendships with at least 2-3 other dancers who have remained in their lives. This is a real void in Angeline's character development.
  • Many of the dance and cultural references seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of saying, "Hey look, I did some research and now I'm going to throw it at you just to prove that I know something about this topic." Although they did usually seem to have something to do with the plot, these references don't blend smoothly and often jarred me out of the flow of the plot, the way a television commercial can jar you out of the flow of a televised movie.
  • There are a few places where the author seemed to be suggesting a negative attitude toward belly dancers, which seemed a bit peculiar for a book whose main character made her living as one. For example, Angeline would occasionally refer to the beaded, sequinned costumes she wore for her nightclub shows as "tacky". Most nightclub dancers that I know think their glittery stuff is pretty, and that's part of the appeal of the dance for them.
  • As a U.S. reader, I found some of the U.K.-specific references throughout the book to be bewildering. For example, the book makes several references to "Shepherd's Bush" in comparing Angeline's neighborhood with other neighborhoods.

 

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Conclusion

I did have fun reading the last half of this book, in spite of the negative comments I made above. I generally enjoy books with strong, sassy female characters, and I think that's partly why I liked this one. Although the plot seemed rather unlikely (how many of us will ever become entangled with cops on the take, psychotic gangsters who have been admiring us from afar for years, and shocking discoveries about secrets our family members were keeping from us?) it was no more implausible than the plots of many television shows and movies.

So, I found the book fun to read, but it's certainly not representative of what a typical professional belly dancer's life is like. (If there is such a thing as a typical professional belly dancer...) But then, it doesn't claim to be. Treat this book as being a crime thriller that coincidentally cast its main character as a former belly dancer, and you'll go into it with the right expectations. It did entertain me enough to make me decide to read the sequel, Desiring Cairo.

 

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Related Books

Baby Love is Book 1 in the Angeline Gower trilogy. The others include:

  • Desiring Cairo. Book 2. This is the sequel to Baby Love. It explores what happens when people from widely different cultural backgrounds find love, with complications thrown in by the assorted characters from the first book.
  • Tree of Pearls. Book 3. This is the sequel to Desiring Cairo. Angeline finally puts to rest the ghosts of her past and reaches closure on the problems she was having with her love life.

 

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Disclosures

There is nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone associated with this book.

 

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To Buy It

I bought my copy through the United Kingdom version of Amazon. It was originaly published in the UK, and for a long time was not available through US-based sources. However, I see it's now available in the US as well.


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