A Man of Honor
As I read A Man of Honor, I thought it was a nice enough series romance to pass a few hours on a hot summer’s day. Then one incident jerked me out of the book and colored my entire perception of the heroine – and not in a good way.
Heather Marshall grew up in an abusive family. Her father was a sheriff who drank and when he was drunk, he’d go into rages, break things, and hit her. Her mother was no help since she was drunk as well. As soon as she could, Heather left home and hasn’t seen her parents in a number of years.
Together with her sister Kathy, Heather is involved in several projects to help victims of abuse. She runs a safe house for battered women, she’s working on a group home for runaway girls, and she roams the streets in a white van passing out food and offering counseling to street kids.
Dave McCoy is the cop on the beat where Heather roams and he sometimes thinks she is too foolhardy. An expert kickboxer who thinks she can always take care of herself, all of her skills are of no help when she’s confronted by three hoodlums. Luckily, Dave is there and arrests them. Heather is grateful, but because of her background, she is not all that trusting of law enforcement.
Heather’s mistrust of the police is compounded when Mary Beth Landers and her children show up at the shelter. Mary Beth’s husband Hank is a policeman who has often threatened that no one will believe her since he’s the cop and she’s nothing. When Mary Beth finally comes to the shelter and tells her tale (and it is a horrid one), Heather can’t trust Dave with the information since she is still mistrustful of cops.
The whole thrust of the plot is how Heather realizes that not all cops are bad. Yes there are bad eggs like Hank Landers, but Dave isn’t Hank. He’s good, decent and honorable as the day is long. It takes Heather a long time to realize it, but eventually she does.
I’ve read this plot in many a series romance and A Man of Honor doesn’t make it new or fresh. But it’s competent, and I read along one incident stopped me cold and as a result I despised Heather and ruined the remainder of the book.
Here’s what happened: Before Kathy marries, she wants to mend fences with their parents. Although unhappy, Heather agrees to come to a dinner with Kathy, her fiancé, and their parents. When they arrive, Kathy and Heather see that Mr. and Mrs. Marshall have undergone a total transformation. They’ve quit drinking, they both belong to AA and they are deeply contrite about their past lives. Kathy is willing to bury the hatchet, but Heather remains hostile. I could understand her attitude – not many people are saintly enough to forgive a childhood of abuse right off the bat. But then Heather did something horrid. She poured two glasses of her parent’s favorite whiskey (she bought a bottle, you see), set the drinks down on the table, and announced that she knew they couldn’t get through a night without it. Then all through the dinner, she ostentatiously sipped wine and made snide remarks. Her parents just quietly said that they had been sober for two years and intended to stay that way.
If only Heather had not poured the whiskey. I could understand why she wasn’t ready to forgive her parents, but that was a childish and evil act and I thoroughly despised her for it.
Janice Kay Johnson wrote a trilogy about sisters whose cop father was abusive. Two of them (Renee and Meg) were reissued as Patton’s Daughters and the third is A Message for Abby. I can heartily recommend those books, but I can’t recommend this one. Normally, I don’t let one incident color my perception of a whole book, but what Heather did was reprehensible.