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And Baby Makes Five

SOPHIE KINSELLA DELIVERS ANOTHER BUNDLE
OF JOY FOR SHOPAHOLIC FANS

By Tara Gelsomino

It's hard to imagine a world without a regular dose of retail therapy courtesy of Becky Bloomwood. But, believe it or not, after the bubbly Becky got hitched in 2002's Shopaholic Ties the Knot, author Sophie Kinsella was ready to give her monster-hit series
a little break, so she could turn her attention to other matters, like penning single titles such as Can You Keep a Secret? However, Kinsella didn't count on how much she -- and her readers -- would miss the warmhearted spendthrift.

"At the time a lot of people were saying that she should have a baby, but I felt that was a little too pat. I wanted her to have a few more adventures before that. Then the minute I had the idea of her having a skinflint sister, I knew I had to do it. And once I started that one, I knew I'd have to do
at least one more."

So to follow up 2004's Shopaholic and Sister, Kinsella returned
to the idea of conception -- rather organically, since she had recently given birth herself -- and penned Shopaholic and Baby (Mar., Dial). "Anyone who has a baby knows it's like
stepping into a new world," she explains. "From the minute
you see that blue line on the pregnancy test, you're just totally immersed in this world. You have nine months, and you feel
like you have to learn everything."

Though Kinsella, whose character was based in part on her own shopaholic tendencies, admits the temptation to give in to insane purchases while pregnant is great, she resisted buying her own sonogram machine -- "though if a home epidural kit were available, I would have been all over that!" One can't quite expect Becky to be so restrained, of course. "It's quite a bewildering time, and all the hormones at work really add to that. You have this instinct that says 'My child must have the best of everything, and I must buy everything I can to protect and care for her.' "

Luckily, best friend Suze, sister Jess and even her old Manhattan neighbor, fashion designer Danny, make guest appearances to help Becky rein in her budget. They're also on hand to provide Becky with moral support when the department store where she works as a personal shopper begins to go under, and when she suspects Luke is falling in love with their obstetrician -- who just happens to be his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, Venetia Carter.

"Becky's always been such a gung-ho kind of
person, but for the first time in this book, she really reaches a new vulnerability. Yes, you bloom and glow when you're pregnant, but there are days when you look in the mirror and you just feel huge and cow-like. And if there's a beautiful woman there all the time, it's easy to get insecure."

Though fans might scream bloody murder if Kinsella were
to do anything to break Becky's heart, she admits that she felt
this challenge to Becky and Luke's rather solid relationship was
a fitting turn that allowed Becky to exhibit more depth and vulnerability than she has in the past.

"This is a stage where marriage is really tested, and all these hormones are taking their toll. And even though the books are supposed to be light and fun, and they are, I think it's nice if now and then you take a moment and just dig a little and show what's behind the jolly exterior."

Of course, there are still plenty of hooty high jinks. Becky must come up with a plan to save her new job, stay out of debt (perhaps the new bank manager will be a bit more accommodating to Becky's
written requests), move into
a new house and keep the doctor away -- from Luke, that is.

So will we soon be reading "Shopaholic Soccer Mom"? First, Kinsella will plot a new stand-alone novel. But she's sure we'll get a chance to check in on Becky and family down the road. "I would never want to write one just for the sake of writing it," she cautions. "I can come up with ideas, but I always have to ask, 'Is this good enough?'"

For thousands of fans, that answer requires no pregnant pause -- just a resounding yes.


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