Someone to Believe In
Upfront, let me say that this is my favorite type of contemporary romance – a story centered primarily on the romantic relationship between two mature individuals with little to no suspense lurking in the background. Providing some unique plot elements, Kathryn Shay’s latest features political adversaries in a moving and real life love story.
Bailey O’Neal has dedicated her life to getting kids out of gangs and off the street. Her anti-gang youth organization reaches a significant number of kids and garners a good amount of positive publicity. After losing her sister to gang violence years ago, Bailey is especially zealous in her work. She earned her nickname, Street Angel, after knowingly harboring a killer 11 years ago and served a year in prison for the crime. But a year wasn’t enough in the mind of prosecuting attorney Clay Wainwright and he has continued to battle relentlessly with Bailey in the years since.
Clay is now a senator from New York known for his firm stance on crime. He staunchly believes most gang members are criminals and, therefore, need to be dealt with by the police – not some social agency that provides protection to those breaking the law. Clay is a mid-forties, divorced father of a college aged son and one of the more mature heroes I have read lately.
Tagged adversaries by both the press and each other, Bailey and Clay regularly share their differences of opinion with the world. Bailey seeks federal funding for Guardian House, a planned shelter exclusively for gang kids, and Clay can block those funds in the Appropriations Committee. Venting her frustration in a letter to the editor of a major newspaper, Bailey accuses Clay of losing his edge and suggests that he retire to a country home and spend his time playing golf. Realizing that this latest dispute with the Street Angel may have negative consequences on his political career, Clay seeks a truce with Bailey only to have her reject his offer soundly since she recognizes it for exactly what it is.
Believing that the senator and Street Angel need to resolve their differences, the governor appoints both to a task force that will determine the use of the youth crime funds in New York. Thrown together, Clay and Bailey fight a strong attraction for one another despite their glaring differences and significant history, but they eventually fall into a relationship that must be kept from the public eye. Their gradual understanding of each other’s positions and the growth of their mutual respect are some of the best moments of Someone to Believe In.
Clay’s character is one of my favorite aspects of this book and, while his extreme hard-nosed stance on crime seemed improbable, I still found him to be a respectable, alluring, and sexy hero. Although he wields a lot of power, his beta personality made me question my preference for alpha heroes. His sincere, tender care for Bailey’s son left me swooning and his relationship with his own son played out so realistically that I was reminded of interactions with my own college-age children.
Bailey is mostly a level-headed, likable heroine but I found myself wondering how a 25 year-old event, albeit tragic, could still hold such obsessive power over a healthy minded individual. She definitely falls into the tortured heroine category, but, unfortunately, also occasionally falls into the TSTL ranks as well. I could clearly understand Clay’s aggravation over her apparent disregard for her life. After all, she is a single parent of a four-year-old son with many responsibilities beyond her work. However, it is the very nature of Bailey’s TSTL moments that drive the plot and make them intricate to the overall effectiveness of the story.
While appreciating the adult nature of Clay and Bailey’s relationship, I was even more impressed by their ability to work calmly through some big hurdles thrown in their path. Despite Bailey’s insistence that their relationship would be “just sex”, a sincere two-way love develops in which the reader is allowed sufficient time to bask in this love relationship. However, precisely because of the mature nature of their relationship, Bailey and Clay’s behavior is clearly out of character during the last pages and fuels an ending that seems more contrived than satisfying.
Bailey’s four overprotective brothers deliver some entertaining secondary storylines. They own an Irish pub which provides an effective backdrop for much of the story, as well as representation of a strong family support system for Bailey. Because of Clay’s role in sending Bailey to prison, their reactions to his involvement in her life are predictable but enjoyable nonetheless.
Having worked in Washington D.C. for several years, I am probably more sensitive to the political arena than most, but I couldn’t help thinking that the political environment within Someone to Believe In was unrealistic and rather lightweight. It was this feeling of playing politics as well as the contrived ending that keeps this book from reaching DIK status.