After the Fire

Code of Honor

A Christmas Legacy

Cop of the Year

Count on Me

Feel the Heat

Finally a Family

The Fire Within

The Man Who
Loved Christmas

Nothing More to Lose

On the Line

Our Two Sons

Practice Makes Perfect

Promises to Keep

Someone to Believe In

Trust in Me

Ties that Bind by Kathryn Shay
(Berkley, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-21053-7
Judge Kaitlyn Renado and her ex-husband, attorney Reese Bishop, are drawn back together against their will when they are implicated in a suicide. A long-ago client named Anna Bingham, sent to prison for numerous offenses, has supposedly killed herself in prison. In a suicide note she claimed that Reese and Kate didn’t defend her properly ten years ago because she and Reese were having an affair at the time, and she ended up in prison because of it

Kate, who is involved with a hunky younger doctor named Tyler, and Reese, who is living with a fitness instructor named Dray, are forced to work together to save their reputations. As they unravel the clues as to what exactly did happen to Anna Bingham, they find that the spark between them is flaring to life again. The story revolves around their re-budding relationship and how it affects Tyler, Dray, and Sofie, Kate and Reese’s resentful teenaged daughter.

Kathryn Shay usually delivers a solid romance between two mature characters. Try as she does, though, Ties That Bind doesn’t quite work. Perhaps it’s the very painful past that Kate and Reese have together, which they never really confront. Without giving away the plot, the end of their marriage was traumatic, with both of them committing acts that might put the nail in the coffin of any union. A lot of forgiveness would be needed to forge ahead and start over, but these two don’t even have a lengthy heart-to-heart talk.

Instead, most of the book is taken up with the effects of their attraction on Tyler and Dray. The same scene is repeated several times, as Tyler and Dray confront Kate and Reese and demand to know what’s going on, deliver ultimatums, and feel emotionally crushed. Frankly, the actions of these secondary characters worked better than the leads; Ms. Shay doesn’t hesitate to show their pain, and at least the characters act like adult most of the time. I could have done with less angst on the part of Tyler and Dray, and more soul-searching on the part of Kate and Reese, though.

When a tragedy strikes Reese’s family midway through the book, it offers a chance for Kate and Reese to reconnect (and throws a ready-made family into their laps). At that point, the story becomes fragmented. Reese and Kate are trying to get back together, Tyler and Dray are trying to get out of these relationships with some dignity intact, and oh yeah, there’s the matter of Anna Bingham. The author deals with this by not spending more than a few pages on one plot element before bouncing to another, which further fragments the read. It’s too much conflict and the story suffers.

But darn it, the book is so readable. Kathryn Shay writes some of the cleanest prose around, and it’s my belief she’d make the Yellow Pages sound interesting if the phone company put her on staff. Much as I wasn’t buying into Kate and Reese’s happily-ever-after (a giant “Family Counseling!” sign seemed to be flashing in my head), the story was brisk and kept me reading. And Ms. Shay knows her way around a steamy love scene. In that respect, Kate and Reese are completely believable.

Ties that Bind is a mixed bag. If you enjoy stories with multiple plot threads and a lower-key romance, this might be just the summer beach book you’re looking for. As for me, I might hunt up one of Kathryn Shay’s older releases instead.

--Cathy Sova

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