Jean Brashear’s Forgiveness is the most emotional story I’ve read in a long time and one of my favorite books so far this year. Hungry for more of the same, I eagerly picked up Mercy, her new single title release. Oddly enough, even though the book is labeled “Saga” and contains three storylines, the back cover only describes one of them. It turns out there’s a good reason for that. The other storylines are nowhere near as interesting and only detract from the main one.
Lucas Walker never knew what it was like to have a family. His mother abandoned him when he was a child, leaving him at the hands of his abusive father. But his life changed at age sixteen when he befriended Paris and Tansy Gerard, the teenage twins of world-renowned Shakespearean actor Martin Gerard. For a brief time, a whole new world opened up to him. Though Martin never approved of Lucas’s presence in their lives, his wife Juliette welcomed him into their family as though he were her own. Paris became his best friend, and he and Tansy fell in love. Then came the night Tansy was raped, Paris was shot to death defending her – and Lucas was framed for committing both crimes.
After spending twenty years in prison, all Lucas wants is to get out of New York and put the past behind him. Then he hears a rumor that Tansy is going to marry Carlton Sanford, the Gerard family friend responsible for her rape and her brother’s murder. Lucas heads back to Manhattan, where he discovers that Tansy has never recovered from what happened that night. Her mind fractured, she lives in a childlike dream world, believing that her brother is still alive and one day a prince will come to take her away. When Lucas sees her at a park near her father’s apartment, she immediately recognizes him as her long-lost prince. Sanford has long urged her father to let him marry her, under the guise that he’ll be able to take care of her. Until now, her family has resisted. But the more time Lucas spends with Tansy in their secret meetings at the park, the more convinced he becomes that he has to save her from the madman who destroyed her once before.
This story was exactly what I was hoping for when I bought the book. It’s an emotional tale with two memorable, very special characters, particularly the hero. Lucas is such a poignant figure, rejected by everyone he ever cared about, yet still willing to risk anything and everything to keep the woman he loves safe. The way the author paints his character, showing his past as well as laying his emotions bare on the page, makes it so easy to feel for him. The flashback to the night his mother left is simply heartbreaking.
The love between the haunted Lucas and the tragic, ethereal Tansy is so sweet and touching. Tansy’s not in her right mind, so the sexual element is removed, yet the interactions between them are unmistakably tender. There’s something pure about their love. It’s not sexual, but it is deep and powerful. I found their story very romantic, and there are moments throughout that are almost unbearably moving. The book ends on a note that definitely brought a lump to my throat.
Unfortunately, Lucas and Tansy’s story is only one of three told in this book, with Tansy’s two sisters having arcs of their own. The challenge of books featuring multiple storylines is that they all need to be equally interesting. Often there’s a weak link and in this case, both of the other sisters’ stories are equally weak. I honestly could not have cared less about either of them, as they dealt with problems that seemed so mundane compared to the high stakes and deep drama of Lucas and Tansy’s storyline.
Mona and her husband Fitz were both ambitious and career-driven professionals. Then Fitz, a reporter, was held hostage by a gunman for two days. The ordeal turned him into a new person, one she barely recognizes. He decides their lives are empty, and only children can bring meaning to their existence. His priorities have changed, so he demands that she change hers, pulling back on her career so she can start popping out babies. This whole subplot was simply aggravating. He’s domineering and obnoxious, lecturing her about her career and basically giving her an ultimatum without allowing her any say in the matter. This book is published by Harlequin, so it should be no surprise whether the story’s loyalties lie with the career woman who doesn’t want children or the man ordering her to get pregnant. If this story wasn’t annoying enough, the way the conflict is resolved is a complete copout.
Meanwhile, Kat, the youngest sister, owns her own art gallery in Chelsea. She makes an unfortunate habit of sleeping with the artists whose work she shows. The latest one seems like a complete jerk, which she seems to find appealing for some unknown reason. She chases him relentlessly until she finally gets him into bed, only to be devastated when, shockingly, he turns out to be a complete jerk after all. Kat is neither interesting nor likable, the artist is odious, and this story is a waste of space.
The family dynamics are well-done, but Mona’s and Kat’s individual subplots simply seem like filler. Lucas and Tansy’s story is so tragic and moving, with so much at risk for both characters, that I couldn’t care about Mona and her bossy husband, or the bed-hopping Kat, who can’t recognize a jerk when he treats her like garbage. Lucas and Tansy’s story is one I’m sure I’ll remember, but if I ever reread the book, I know I’ll be skimming the other sections. They turn what could have been a very good book into one with a single excellent plotline and a lot of unsatisfying padding.