A Verdict of Love
Jenna Mills is a talented author whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past, but not even she can do much to liven up a standard issue secret child story in the latest Family Secrets book, A Verdict of Love.
After the sudden death of his father, Eric Jones found comfort for one night in the arms of one of his closest college friends, Leigh Montgomery. Afterward, he returned to his Indiana hometown and married his longtime fiancée, breaking off his relationship with Leigh. She went to England to study abroad, never telling him she was pregnant.
Ten years later, a now-divorced Eric is back in Chicago, and so is Leigh, along with the son he doesn’t know he has. When Eric finds himself accused of a major heist on the World Bank, there is only one lawyer he can trust: Leigh. Despite her misgivings about getting close to him again, she takes the case, unwilling to let her child’s father go to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. That doesn’t mean she’ll tell him about his son, at least not until they’ve put this crisis behind them.
Gee, do you think it’s possible he’ll find out before then? That’s the main problem with A Verdict of Love. As solidly written and competently executed as it is, it’s also very predictable and brings nothing new to this standard story. I don’t know how much room Mills had to operate within the confines of the story she was give to write. She does what she can to make the characters as reasonable as possible and there’s no one who’s really wrong or at fault in this scenario. Eric and Leigh are both nice people, as is their entire circle of friends, which lends a nice sense of camaraderie to the tale. They each did what they thought best based on the information they had at the time, even if Leigh’s continued reluctance to tell Eric after he reenters her life does test the reader’s patience.
But everything happens exactly the way you’d expect it to. Leigh is jittery and rationalizes not telling Eric for quite a while. Eric finds out right on cue. Anger and explanations follow. Estrangement, reconciliation, etc. Leigh’s son is kept off stage for so long he seems like a non-presence in her life, and when he does appear he’s a not very convincing child character who acts older than nine years old. There is a nice moment with the hero’s family history late in the book, but it’s the only moment that stands out. Other than that one instance, the story never really hits an emotional, heart-tugging level that would make it rise above the predictable plot movements.
As for the legal thriller plot, it’s decent, but not enough the focus of the book to develop much excitement. The ending was more of a surprise than it should have been, although the characters handle the case with intelligence and ingenuity. But this aspect takes a definite back seat to the relationship and secret child element. This is basically a filler book, one which focuses on a couple who isn’t a main part of the series storyline and doesn’t really offer much new information.
A Verdict of Love is a perfectly average read. Mills has done better when telling her own story that is not part of a series. (The Cop Next Door and When Night Falls were quite good). Hopefully she, and the series, can now get back to more exciting tales with this seemingly required one behind them.