Ties That Bind
Some readers might disagree with me (and vehemently too), but I think that the fantasy of a divorced couple reconciling is an alluring one – under the right circumstances, of course. This is the primary storyline in Kathryn Shay’s Ties That Bind, and she makes a convincing argument for the possibility of a Second Chance at Love, even though the suspense angle left me less enthused.
Reese Bishop and Kate Renado met in law school, fell very much in love, married, had a cute little girl, built a successful practice, and then crashed and burned as husband and wife. Even the lapse of several years, successful careers as attorney and judge, respectively, as well as current serious relationships with other people haven’t lessened the pain of their divorce. It doesn’t take long for the deep-seated animosity to flare up between them when they occasionally meet.
However the two have learned that Anna Bingham, a woman they represented during their marriage, committed suicide. In her suicide note Anna claims that she had an affair with Reese at the time (ten years earlier) and that when Kate found out, they did a poor job of defending her, which resulted in a guilty verdict. Anna felt her life went downhill from there as she shuffled in and out of prison several times after that first conviction. Now, once again in prison with her longest sentence to date (ten years), she decides to end it all. Reese and Kate have to work together to save their jobs, and to their distress, their attraction to each other resurfaces.
To reveal more would be spoilers for this great character-driven romance. Suffice it to say, it was absorbing to watch the uneasy dance between Reese and Kate and their respective significant others, Dray and Tyler, who are deeply in love with them. Reese and Kate are good, honorable people who take great care not to hurt the other two and are always upfront with them about their conflicted feelings. Reese and Kate also don’t want to give any false hopes to their now teenage daughter, who chose to attend a school far away from both of them and remains angry over their divorce. But the more time Reese and Kate spend together, the more they remember the innumerable details of their happy marriage and the fact that their years apart and healed emotional wounds haven’t diminished how wonderful and right they are for each other.
Shay is excellent at showing Reese and Kate actually doing their jobs. It’s one thing to say the characters are accomplished at their jobs; it’s a special thing to show that the characters are accomplished at them. I especially appreciated that the female character, Kate, is shown using her brains and skill in performing her role as judge. Shay does a terrific job of setting a believable and interesting backdrop of Reese and Kate juggling the pressure of their demanding jobs and the investigation that could potentially destroy their careers.
Reese and Kate are two individuals who seem too perfect in their work and home lives, but who, because they show a lot of caring and loyalty to the people in their lives, are easy to like and care about. Even Dray and Tyler are three-dimensional and sympathetic characters, although the name Dray for a woman irritated me. (Dray? According to the dictionary, a dray is a wagon to haul goods. Hardly a pretty name for a toned, good-looking, young, blonde woman). Unfortunately, for Reese and Kate to achieve their HEA, Dray and Tyler must suffer. But Dray and Tyler have emotional resources and self-worth – I was left with the feeling that they would be fine.
While the love quadrangle definitely kept my interest, the investigation plot disappointed me. I just expected it to be a bit more, well, exciting and suspenseful. Now, I’ve been a mystery reader for twenty years and I do understand that characters have to sift through gobs of paperwork to draw some useful deductions, but except for one startling scene of sudden and unexpected violence, the investigation is almost all paper and desktop detection, which makes a rather flat impact.
For readers who are looking for an exciting, suspenseful story, Ties that Bind may not be your cup of tea. But for readers looking for a meaty, character driven romance, I can recommend this book wholeheartedly