The House on the Beach

True-Blue Texan

A Man of Honor by Linda Barrett
(Harl. Super Rom. #1366, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-71366-5
Heather Marshall and her sister Kathy grew up in East Texas with an abusive father, George, who was also an alcoholic. His wife, Jolene, didn’t beat the girls, but she was a drinker. Heather just wanted to get out. She had no recourse though, because George was a county sheriff and his “brothers” protected him and returned her home when she tried to run away. Heather and Kathy ended up in Houston, where they have grown into strong women who run a shelter for battered women called Welcome Home. Heather is also working on a project called Girlfriends that will be a shelter for runaway girls. In the meantime, she takes a van out a few nights a week, offering food and blankets to the runaways. She tries to convince them to go to a local youth shelter or to go home if she thinks it is safe.

Heather, a social worker by trade, is able to help the women at the shelter because she understands their desperation and their sense of utter helplessness. But she has trained herself to remain aloof, too. She hates her parents, even though they have been sober for two years. She also distrusts cops. But there is one cop who is trying to change her mind.

Officer Dave McCoy is the patrol officer assigned on the beat that includes Welcome Home and the route that Heather goes on to help the runaways. One night, he finds Heather in a situation with several thugs who have knives. They resent that she is helping their prey, i.e. the runaway girls. Dave saves her and arrests the thugs, only to discover that one escaped and has vowed vengeance on Heather. Dave agrees to help Heather so he can keep an eye on her.

They spend time together both on the route and helping to fix up the Girlfriends shelter. Dave enlists other cops and his father, a retired policeman. Heather gets a chance to see the men as men, not as “the brotherhood” that she remembers from her childhood. She also has to make peace with her parents when they come to town to participate in Kathy’s wedding. A side plot also stirs Heather’s emotions when one of the women who come to Welcome Home shelter is the wife of an abusive cop who is trying to hunt her down.

This is a well-written story about coming to grips with life. But it is not heavy handed. The issues that Heather deals with are handled maturely. She is not overly emotional. She sees things as black and white and has to recognize that there is grey in the world, but for all her childhood angst, she is a well-adjusted adult.

Dave has some issues with his own life. His parents divorced, partly because his mother couldn’t handle being the wife of a cop. Dave sees their lives and wishes he could have a relationship that was supportive and healthy. He thinks he can convince Heather that this can be their reality. But Dave is also realistic and recognizes he needs to give Heather time to reach her own conclusions. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t show his attraction. There is rich sexual tension and an engaging adult relationship.

The characters are well written with depth to their stories. Dave’s parents struggle with a renewing attraction. Heather’s parents just want her to see that they are trying to change and that they realize that they made major mistakes. Her sister has a healthy relationship and a good head on her shoulders. Even the abused cop’s wife is more than just a caricature, with real feelings and vulnerabilities and strengths that she can build on now that she has taken the big step of leaving her husband.

A Man of Honor is a fascinating tale that provides thought-provoking entertainment. It is a character study while being a bit suspenseful and a lot romantic. Enjoy.

--Shirley Lyons

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