A few hours ago I picked up Alicia Scott’s new romantic suspense novel. My husband dragged me to the table for dinner (it’s his week to cook) but as soon as we were done, I rushed back to the story of Mike and Sandy and the Alexandria, MA police department and a confused young boy named Toby. There you have it: my definition of a keeper.
The police department in the small industrial city of Alexandria is in deep trouble. Corruption, nepotism and an abysmal relationship with the city’s minority population have led to the dismissal of the police chief. With faith in the department at an all-time low ebb, the mayor has no choice but to hire an outsider to shape up his police force. And
what an outsider! Sandra Aikens may be a member of one of the city’s leading families; she may have successfully run her family’s security firm. But she’s a civilian and a woman! No wonder she is greeted by a nameplate that reads b**ch on her first day.
However Sandra is not completely without knowledge of the Alexandria police force. Five years earlier she met and married one of the force’s best detectives, Mike Rawlins. One year later she divorced him. Now she’s his boss. She has to wonder how he’ll respond to the situation. She also has to wonder how she’ll respond to the one man she ever loved and never forgot.
The situation that faces the new chief is anything but promising. The whole city is in an uproar about a letter sent to the local newspaper. In it, the writer who calls himself Vee for vengeance -- obviously a young boy from the projects -- promises to start killing cops who come into the impoverished east end of the city. Sandra needs her best men
on the case to find Vee, and her best men are Mike and his partner Rusty Koontz. She’d been married to one and had had less than friendly relations with the other.
Mike proves surprisingly helpful and cooperative; Rusty is less pleased with the new chief. The two begin a search for Vee which takes them and the reader into the hopeless, violent world of juvenile gangs. Then someone shoots at two policeman and the stakes rise. Can they find Vee before he kills someone? Can they find him before the tension in the city boils over?
Marrying Mike...Again is a fine “second chance at love story, a well done police procedural, and a compelling examination of the fissures between rich and poor, black and white, that so trouble our society. That Scott can pack all this into 250 pages is a testament of her skill as a writer.
The romance is especially rewarding and realistic. Sandra and Mike had never stopped loving or wanting each other, but class differences, family disapproval and the inherent problems that face the spouses of all policemen had driven them apart. From their first encounter, it is clear that the spark is still there. But the problems that drove them
apart four years earlier are still there. Scott paints a most convincing picture of their sometimes rocky road to reconciliation.
Mike is great hero. He is handsome, intelligent, with a Cajun charm he inherited from his family. He responds to Sandra’s reentry into his life as his boss with humor and good sense. Sandra is a smart woman who is fully aware of the difficulties of the challenges she faces. She shows her wisdom when she willingly takes Mike’s good advice about how to handle his colleagues. But however well the two work together, it is clear that they will not be able to sustain a merely professional relationship. And when they move to the personal, boy, do the pages smolder.
While the romance in Marrying Mike...Again is all that anyone could want, what really makes this a five heart read is Scott’s creation of Vee, or Toby Watkins, the thirteen year old boy who has seen his brother killed, his sister maimed and his mother collapse under the strain. This confused child who seeks a vengeance he does not
understand against a world that has thrown him away speaks for all those confused children who live in a world of violence and despair where safety -- and death -- lie in belonging to a gang and where the successful are the drug dealers and the pimps.
So read Marrying Mike...Again for its marvelous romance but read it also for Toby’s story. And if Scott’s ending seems perhaps too pat and Pollyanish, well, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Tobys of this world as well as the Mikes and Sandras had their happily ever afters?