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

Practice Makes Perfect

Promises to Keep

 
Trust in Me by Kathryn Shay
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-18884-1
*****
Kathryn Shay is one gutsy author! Trust in Me, her second mass market paperback, both rejects the formulaic character of so many current romance novels and takes on two controversial subjects rarely found within their pages: spousal abuse and religion. Her daring results in an unusual and compelling tale of guilt and forgiveness.

Shay rejects the current formula by writing an ensemble story. The book does not focus on one relationship with a secondary romance thrown in. Rather, she looks at three relationships, each equally central to the plot.

We meet five of the six main characters in the Prologue. The year is 1983 and the place is Glen Oaks, a small New York town whose only claim to fame is a stock car racing track. Linc Grayson heads a band of troubled kids who call themselves “the Outlaws.” Its members consist of his girlfriend Margo; his sister Beth; his friends Danny Donovan and Joe Murphy; and Joe’s girlfriend Annie. Linc and Beth are orphans, being raised by their uncaring grandparents. Margo is the daughter of a fanatic who belongs to a local religious cult. Joe lives with his abusive father and abused mother. Annie, at fourteen the youngest, is neglected by her parents. Danny is the son of privilege whose parents have no time for his friends or his own dreams.

The gang is all too well known to the police of Glen Oaks but things come to a head when they try and botch a robbery. That night changes their lives.

Fast forward twenty years. Three of the six still live in Glen Oaks. Beth married Danny and had a son, only to lose her husband in a stock car crash ten years earlier. Ron is sixteen and seems to be headed for the same kind of trouble his parents got into. Annie had married Joe, but history repeated itself. Six years earlier, Joe had left town after beating his wife one time too many.

The person who suggested that Joe leave was Linc. Surprisingly, Linc has become a minister who has devoted himself to providing the help that he and his friends needed but didn’t get all those years ago. However, his calling has cost him the love of his life. Margo, whose fanatical mother had abused her in the name of God and religion, cannot believe in either. She has left Glen Oaks and is now a successful business executive in New York. But she still sees the “Outlaws” as her best friends.

The catalyst for change in the lives of the protagonists is the arrival in Glen Oaks of Tucker Quaid, three-time Winston Cup champion, now retired. Tucker drove the car that caused the accident that killed Danny. He was cleared of responsibility by an investigative board, but Ron blames him for his father’s death. And, to tell the truth, Tucker blames himself. Tucker has come to town to try to revive the race track.

Ron’s anger comes to a head and he vandalizes Tucker’s car. This act, on top of his past misbehavior, brings him before the town’s Community Youth Council. Linc sits on the council as does Annie. The group waits for the arrival of the new Director of Social Services to begin the hearing. And Joe Murphy walks back into their lives.

It is impossible in a short review to provide a sense of the complexity of the characters or the story of Trust in Me. All of the characters are fully developed and complex human beings. The two controversial subjects are personified by Linc and Joe. Spousal abuse is not a popular topic with many romance readers. They know too well how rare there can be a happy ending in a relationship where one party abuses the other. They know how difficult it is for an abuser to reform. I recall very well the negative response to Mary Jo Putney’s treatment of the problem a couple of years ago.

Shay does not shy away from this controversial subject. Joe was an abuser, pure and simple, and while we know why, we are not expected to forgive him readily. Shay makes it quite clear how hard he has worked to tame the “Mr. Hyde” within him. She also shows us how abuse continues to affect the life of the one who suffered it. Annie does not easily forgive or forget.

Linc’s character introduces the religious element into the story. While heroes who talk with God and try to do His will are common in inspirational romances, they are rare in other parts of the genre. I have not read many inspirational romances but those I have do not always offer what I believe to be an accurate picture of the struggle that doing God’s work can be. Shay’s portrayal of Linc seems to me to be a good representation of a devout and devoted man of God. And it is inspiring.

I hope Trust in Me finds the readership it deserves. I hope that Shay is rewarded for daring to do something different. I don’t know when I have become more involved in a novel’s characters and story. I believe I will be revisiting this book again when I need to be reminded that forgiveness is central to true contentment.

--Jean Mason


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