|Kathryn Shay is known for her romances featuring controversial issues
and complex, well-developed and mature (read older) characters. A
marriage-in-jeopardy story, Tell Me No Lies is not a romance in the strict sense. But like Shay's signature creations, it is about
finding love, trust and forgiveness when all the odds are against it.
When Tessa Logan was nineteen, she spent two years in prison on
manslaughter charges. She has since turned her life around. Happily
married with two daughters, she works at a public library and runs a
group for troubled teenaged girls at the local youth center. Her
husband, Dan Logan, is a district attorney who has just been
nominated Citizen of the Year, no small achievement for someone whose
father went to prison for embezzlement. Knowing how much he craves
respectability, Tessa has never told him about her past. When her
former boyfriend shows up after completing his fifteen-year prison
term and threatens to expose her if she doesn't go away with him, she
is all the more determined to handle it on her own.
I know what this must sound like, but please don't judge this book by
its set up. Whatever else Tell Me No Lies might be, it is not another one of those Big Secret story, where a little talking at the
beginning could have spared everyone (readers and characters alike)
angst, grief and boredom. Sure, Tessa's sordid past and her attempts
to cover it up loom large, but more than half of the story deals with
what happens once Dan finds out and all but repudiates her. Does her
tragic, youthful transgression really warrant his harsh and
unforgiving response? Can their marriage survive after her deception
and his betrayal? The answer to the second question is yes
(obviously! this is a Harlequin publication), but not immediately and
not at some cost.
Once the secret is out, the hits keep coming, and they don't stop
with both Dan and Tessa on the ground, bleeding. Frankie Hamilton,
the old boyfriend, winds up dead, and Dan is the number one suspect.
His squeaky-clean life is unraveling.
Going from one disaster to another, the story could have easily
sacrificed emotional mileage for fast pacing. Alternatively, it could
have quickly veered towards the melodramatic or the saccharine. Shay
skirts these extremes fairly well. The succession of events is rarely
completely expected, and the characters' conflicting reactions are
fully probed. I didn't always admire Tessa's behavior or like Dan's
outbursts, but I completely understand them. Their guilt, regrets,
despondence and angry are as real as it gets.
This emotional range and plausibility is also true for the secondary
characters, whose very different responses provide excellent points
of comparison. Even the villain garnered both my repugnance and my
Tessa's self-flagellating streak is nevertheless sometimes difficult
to take. I also have some tiny objections to one or two plot points,
and found the final scene too rushed, and even contrived, given the
amplitude of what comes before. But these are minor issues and don't
significantly detract from the novel's honest exploration of a very
difficult situation. Tell Me No Lies gets a strong recommendation.