Saturday, December 5, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'The Pregnancy Test'

The Book: The Pregnancy Test

The Author: Susan Gable

How I Found It: Kay Hooper had an essay on her website a while back by Susan Gable and the title of the book sounded interesting.

The Review: All right, all right, so I tend to be of the "don't knock it 'til you've tried it" variety and I'm 18 and by this age, a girl should probably read at least one trashy romance. I assumed most Harlequins were trashy.

That being said, while this book wasn't nearly as trashy as I thought one of these things would be, I do have a lot of criticism, mainly with characterization and length. I also haven't read the prequel to this, The Mommy Plan, although I probably will in the near future.

The plot: Sloan Thompson has just moved to Pennsylvania with his two daughters, Brook, fifteen, and Ashley, who's probably around eight-ish. The move is mostly for Brook's benefit, as she'd been hanging out with a bad crowd back home and Sloan wants to set her straight.

He is a single dad whose wife died when the girls were young, and his next-door neighbor is Jenna Quinn, a single, free-spirited woman who refuses to date men with children. She feels that she doesn't have enough responsibility in her to be a parent, so kids are a deal-breaker.

However, Jenna starts to bond with Brook when she offers her a job at her jewelry store, and Sloan starts getting closer to Jenna as well. Before they know it, they're in a "dessert first" (friends with benefits) relationship, while Brook dates a senior at the high school.

Things become complicated when both Brook and Jenna become pregnant, leading to a spate of tough decisions for the two of them and Sloan. For Sloan, it's facing being a father again and a grandfather at the same time. For Brook, it's wondering if she, at fifteen, can give her baby the life she wants her to have. And for Jenna, it's wondering if she even wants to have kids at all.

My criticisms will be a bit spoiler-y, so if you don't want the book spoiled, I'd probably steer clear, but honestly, you can probably guess what'll happen anyway.

First off: the length. I know that romance manuscripts are barely longer than the current state of my NaNo novel (with about a third to go, the word count stands at 52,878, and romance novels are usually around 55,000, according to Wikipedia). I know that a certain amount of that time has to go to building the characters and such. But when a book is called The Pregnancy Test, I'd expect the pregnancy part to come in sooner than halfway through the book?

Secondly, it felt kind of uneven-- for a man dealing with his girlfriend's pregnancy and his daughter's, Brook's was pretty brushed over, as was her relationship with her boyfriend before and after. I know the main story was Sloan and Jenna's, but it really would have been nice to see more details of how her pregnancy affected her emotionally as a teenager.

Third, characterization. Um. Sloan just started to bug me at some points; his "do the right thing" motto just led to so many inconsistencies. Brook asks him if he would make her have an abortion or marry the father, and he says no. However, when it comes to Jenna, he all but wants to force her to carry the pregnancy to term, and wants to marry her. It just bugged me so much that he literally was trying to cajole and coerce her into keeping the baby. I mean, her body, her choice, Mister?

Also, I know people had problems with Brook's decision in the end as to giving her baby up for adoption. I actually didn't-- maybe it's because I'm a teenager, too, but I didn't think it was selfish of her. I felt she did the right thing by her baby.

There was also remarkably little about the pregnancies in the actual book. Beyond Jenna's issues with hyperemesis gravidarum, the symptoms, appointments, etc. are really skimmed in order to cram everything into the page limit, I thought. Huge chunks of time are skipped over in order to get to the deliveries. I also would have liked to see more of the adoption process that Brook went through.

It was a good way to pass the time, but the book could have benefited greatly from being longer, and for a slight reworking of Sloan's character, I felt. It was weaker than I expected it to be, but the author's other books look pretty interesting, and I might give some of them a shot.

Recommended to romance fans or people who enjoy family dramas.


  1. Hey, Trai! Thanks for giving my book a try. I'm glad that although you found issues with it, you're still willing to give me another shot.

    As far as length goes -- oh, boy, do I wish I could have written this book longer. But Superromances must be a specific length, and no longer -- and I'm always pushing my word count all the way to the edge as far as I can. LOL. So I totally agree with you -- this book totally would have benefitted by being longer.

  2. Wow, I feel so honored to get a comment from the author herself! Haha, I don't even know what to think!

    I didn't know much about the word count limitation until I looked it up, but I can definitely relate. My NaNo novel is just about at that length and there's so much more I want to do with it-- I can definitely see it being frustrating!

    I really am looking forward to reading more of your work, and I appreciate you reading mine! :) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. LOL - The internet connects us all, Trai. :-) Which is rather cool.

    Obviously Harlequins aren't your normal reading "cup of tea" so what else do you like to read? I grew up reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and still enjoy some. But when I started writing, it was the relationships that came to the front, so romance was a natural fit for me.

    Congrats on the NaNo novel! What kind of book did you write?

    Yes, all category Harlequins (Not the Mira books, but Superromance, Intrigue, American, etc.) have very specific word counts that the authors must write to. And unfortunately (IMHO) HQ has recently cut those word counts -- making it even harder to tell bigger stories. Superromance is the longest of the lines, but...I wish they'd bump our word count back up. I need ROOM if I'm going to tell a complex story.

  4. I was the same with science fiction and fantasy-- for a while, back in middle and elementary school, that was all I really read! When I was maybe in tenth grade, I started getting more into fiction and the classics (I became a big Austen fan, mainly). So these days, it's mostly fiction of pretty much any kind and checking out other classic authors I haven't read yet.

    For my NaNo novel, it was a young adult work-- I figured I could write for people my own age, haha. It involves four teenagers in New York City and their relationships and such, and then becomes more serious in the last third when it starts to deal with loss and grief. Fun times, clearly. :)

    I noticed how similar the page count was for other romances when I looked around on Amazon and such. I have seen authors take "deleted scenes" or supplementary material to their novels and put them on their websites-- have you ever considered doing that?

  5. Trai, the page counts int he books are very similiar -- but the fonts and margains change. So someone like me, who writes towards the high end of our allowed word count, will have a smaller font and smaller margains in the book. LOL. That's one way to tell how much story you're getting. Problem is, small fonts and small margains can also be a pain in the neck to read.

    Ad for deleted scenes -- I have put some on my website. The reality is, though, I often don't bother writing scenes because of word count.

    For example, in The Pregnancy Test, I think it would have been good to show a scene where Brook is wrestling with her decision to to place her baby for adoption. But, I didn't have room, plus the book is supposed to be a romance, with more of the focus on the hero and heroine, so I didn't even write the scene. So there's no deleted scene to put on my website.

    Writing YA is an excellent idea. You should be able to capture the YA voice -- since you are YA. Have you read S.E. Hinton's stuff? It's "old" now, but she was only 17 or 18 when she wrote her first published book. (Can't remember, but I think the first one was That Was Then, This is Now. She also wrote The Outsiders, and Rumblefish. I loved her stuff when I was in high school, and my son, who is NOT a reader at all (sigh) also loved her books.)

    Oh, hey, one point I also wanted to discuss with you about the book, and your concerns with it. You pointed out that Sloan had different standards when it came to his daughter's pregnancy than he did when it came to Jenna's -- yes, he did. That was the whole point of Sloan's character arc -- he had to learn that "the right thing" wasn't as black-and-white as he'd always thought. And that was his first indication of that growth. No, he wasn't going to force his daughter to marry this boy.

    Of course, dads DO look at daughters differently than they look at themselves, too.

    Some of my favorite SF/F stuff was/is Heinlein, Anne McAffrey's Dragonriders series, and Piers Anthony books. (Among numerous others, of course. I'm a bookaholic. LOL.)

  6. I had to read The Outsiders as required reading for ninth grade-- not technically required, as we were an honors class and Outsiders was considered Regents-level, but my teacher was pregnant and needed something she could teach from her desk, haha. I remember enjoying it. I try to keep Hinton in mind when I think about getting published, haha. I'll seek out some of her other work!

    Thanks for clarifying my issue with Sloan-- that makes more sense now that I can think about it. I can definitely understand how a dad would see the situation differently with a daughter.

    My SF/F streak was when I was younger, so a lot of it was novels for kids, but I do remember enjoying Orson Scott Card a lot when I read Ender's Game. I did try one of the Dragonriders books in my dragon phase-- I was a bit young so I didn't quite understand it, but I know I still have it somewhere. I should read more classic SF-- there's a whole bunch of my father's old books I can probably dip into sometime. Thanks for the names!

  7. Trai, if you'll email me - Susan AT SusanGable DOT com, I'd like to send you a book.