The Secret Father

Unexpected Marriage

Her Little Secret by Anna Adams
(Harl. Super. #1248, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-71248-0
Part of the Women in Blue series, Her Little Secret is the story of Abby Carlton, an officer with the Houston PD. The first time she was at the academy with her friends (the other characters in the series) she left to go to North Carolina with lover Thomas Riley.  When their relationship broke up, Abby came back to the academy to a cool reception from some of her former friends.  Abby is an officer in the Crisis Intervention team. Despite its difficult nature, Abby loves her job and is very good at helping people in trouble.

It's no surprise that when Thomas Riley finds himself in trouble, Abby is the one he turns to. Thomas is a Special Forces soldier, dedicated to his country and the military. That dedication is what caused the problems between him and Abby in the first place. Despite this, Abby can't turn Thomas away when he shows up wounded on her doorstep. Thomas is recovering from a dangerous mission that turned deadly and his confidence has been shattered. He no longer has the cold detached killer instinct and fears that is he returns to duty he'll be unable to perform. However, he doesn't want to admit that to the military lest they discharge him for being mentally unstable. Losing his career would devastate Tom.

So the story goes, with Abby trying to help Thomas, who has changed so much since they were together. The two fight their feelings for one another but inevitably one emotionally charged day leads them to find comfort in sex. It will be no surprise to anyone what Abby's "little secret" is going to turn out to be. Both characters truly love each other, but the problems of meshing two dedicated and difficult careers into a family remain.

This book caused a very mixed reaction. It is well written, and the emotion between Tom and Abby is real and tangible. Therein lies the problem. It's almost too much. There is no levity, no comic relief, nothing to lift the never-ending angst of these two people. While that is understandable given the plot topics, including post-traumatic stress disorder, it is nonetheless exhausting to read.

Also, Abby's not telling Tom about her pregnancy is just frustrating. Not the decision itself, but rather her reasoning behind it. Abby says that she can't burden Tom because it's her responsibility.  He assumed she was using birth control (and didn't ask either), so it can't be his fault. Excuse me? It takes two to tango and frankly, no one should assume anything about birth control. Still, I suppose without that the book wouldn't have its "secret."

There are also a some subplots going on in addition to Tom and Abby's relationship. These aren't light and fluffy either. One deals with a homeless woman Abby helps on occasion. She is an alcoholic who has been desperately searching for her runaway daughter for sixteen years. Eventually she becomes obsessed with Abby and begins to stalk her. The other involves Abby's former academy mate and now chief of police. It comes out of nowhere and is totally unresolved, I suspect because it will turn up in future Women in Blue books.

Her Little Secret is a fine police procedural novel and it handles some difficult topics very well. Just be prepared for a lot of heavy emotions.

--Anne Bulin

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