Marrying Mike... Again
Marrying Mike… Again is a title I came across while editing the Troubled Marriages Special Title List. Since I’m a sucker and a half for a good marriage-in-trouble story, when I found a copy in our library book sale, I snapped it right up. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the book was a complete surprise. More romantic suspense than true romance, it was nonetheless a very nice read.
Sandra Aikens is Alexandria’s brand new Chief of Police, which is a job of distinction, except that no one wants her there. The police force’s reputation was besmirched by rumors of nepotism and financial misdeeds, and the relationship between cops and citizens from the city’s east side is notoriously bad. Racism is overt and violence is always a possibility. Sandy was offered the job because she is a completely neutral party. She has no experience as a cop and no ties to the force. Well, almost no ties – one of her new employees is her ex-husband, Mike Rawlins.
Sandy and Mike broke up four years earlier. They were magic together in the bedroom and a disaster outside of it. His parents didn’t like her. Her parents didn’t like him. She was rich and privileged. He wasn’t. She wanted intimacy from him. He never wanted to discuss his job or his feelings. Sandy broke it off because she was hurting and she didn’t want to hurt any more.
But now they have to work together, and Sandy’s first duty requires help from someone she can trust. A young boy who calls himself “Vee” has written a letter to the local paper detailing how the cops killed his father, how his brother died in gang activity, and how his sister was maimed by a drive-by shooting. His letter is eloquent, emotional, and effective. He warns the cops that if they show their faces in the east side, he’s armed and he will take them down. Sandy must diffuse this situation, and she feels a great responsibility to this young boy whose community has let him down. But will working with Mike help the situation or exacerbate it?
Sandy and Mike are both very admirable characters. Sandy is a trifle young to have the responsibility of Chief of Police, but she does a good job fulfilling her duties. Mike is very appealing. Scott does a fine job showing how the little things and everyday hurts broke up their marriage. Watching them hash out what happened and discover what they need to fix if they don’t want it to happen again was, at times, heart-wrenching.
But often the relationship between Sandy and Mike takes a backseat to what is happening in Alexandria and specifically with Vee. Vee is certainly the most well-developed, interesting, and heartbreaking character in the book, which is good – because his presence made the story much more than just your average category romance suspense plot – and bad, because, well, this is supposed to be a romance. Scott’s descriptions of Vee’s home and school lives would pull on the emotions of someone made from granite. And yet she makes the underlying racism of Alexandria seem understandable – on both sides. The cops are scared, the east-side citizens are scared, and young kids like Vee are not so slowly dying in an atmosphere of fear and hatred. This is the kind of conflict that is both realistic and terribly sad because it’s so hard to overcome.
The story does end on an up note, however, and it’s a real throat-clogger. The conflicts between Mike and Sandy, between Sandy and the police force, and between the police force and Vee are all resolved. And if the way Scott solves them seems a bit… tidy, well, that’s the way things should be. The individual should be able to make a difference, and I’d much rather read a story about people trying than people giving up and failing.
When I picked up Marrying Mike… Again I didn’t realize that Alicia Scott is also Lisa Gardner. I’m not really a big romantic suspense fan, but the real impact of this book, the solid characterization, and the skillfulness of Scott’s writing definitely make me want to give her other books a shot. This is probably not the very first book I’d recommend for someone looking for a marriage-in-trouble story, but I certainly would recommend it to anyone looking for a well done category romance or just a solidly good read.