Cathryn by Shannon Waverly
(Harl. Super #932, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-70932-3
Cathryn McGrath has a lovely home, three adorable kids, and a husband who’s been her heart’s joy since high school. Life could hardly be more perfect. Oh, there’s the matter of the thirty or so pounds she’s put on with her pregnancies, but Cathryn knows that her husband, Dylan, is giving her diamond earrings for Valentines Day. She accidentally found them in his office. So when Cathryn pays a sympathy call on Tucker Lang, a childhood friend and local bad boy who’s home to bury his grandfather, she has little notion of the steamroller that’s about to flatten her life.

The earrings aren’t for Cathryn, it turns out. And before she has time to comprehend what’s happening, Dylan has confessed to an affair and moved out to be with the woman of his dreams. Cathryn is left alone, confused, frumpy, and desperate to save a marriage that looks like it can’t be mended.

Tucker can’t help noticing that his old pal Cath is in trouble. He has a few troubles of his own: he’s gotten a waitress named Jenny pregnant but can’t convince her to marry him, since she believes he’s too much of a hellion to change his ways and be a good father. After all, this is a man who races stock cars for a living, no matter that he’s good at it. Tucker decides to stick around his island hometown of Harmony, Massachusetts, fix up his grandfather’s house, and show Jenny he’s decent father material. If he can help Cathryn over a rough patch while he’s there, so much the better.

Only Tucker and Cathryn soon find that the roots of their friendship are not only deep, but also hot. Very hot. And all those years in high school when they never dated, never tried to become anything more than friends, are about to return to haunt them as adults.

Tucker comes across as a bad boy who’s weary of the reputation and really wouldn’t mind settling down. Cathryn fascinates him; here’s a woman who embodies absolutely every family fantasy he’s ever had. Tucker’s own childhood was miserable until he came to Harmony to live with his grandparents as a young teenager. While they cared deeply for him, they couldn’t quite make up for a neglectful mother. In Cathryn, Tucker senses the deep devotion to family that he himself missed, and it draws him like a moth to a flame. And as she loses some weight, cuts her hair, and begins to transform her life a bit, Tucker finds she’s one sexy woman, as well.

Cathryn didn’t fare quite as well in the characterization department. She came across as a bit of, well, a weenie. I grant you that she’ll resonate differently with different readers, but here’s a woman who becomes “mysteriously anxious and depressed” at the thought of getting a job, and wants to have another baby partly because her two best friends are also pregnant and gee, wouldn’t it be fun to have children at the same time? But perhaps what fell flattest was her reaction to Dylan’s betrayal. The woman never chews him out, never throws anything at him, never screams or swears at him or anything else you might expect of a deeply betrayed wife. The best (or worst) she can manage is a tepid “Blow it out your ear”, even when Dylan confesses the magnitude of his infidelity.

Okay, maybe it’s not too dignified to heave a brick through his windshield. But I’d expect some sort of rage, a flying dish or two, even a ripping up of a photo, and it just didn’t happen. And since this betrayal was the catalyst for the entire story, it felt like something important was missing from the story. I’d have respected Cathryn more if she’d at least thought about hiding a dead fish under the seat of Dylan’s truck or scoring “Dylan McGrath is a worthless cheating bastard” into the paintwork.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story is how Tucker solves the dilemma of the pregnant girlfriend. She doesn’t conveniently go away, and will have to be dealt with. And while the resolution of this problem may have some readers rolling their eyes, it was at least a bit imaginative.

Cathryn will provide readers with a layered story of cheatin’ hearts, lonely hearts, and two hearts that finally find each other. If you enjoy it, take note that it’s the third in a trilogy.

--Cathy Sova

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