The Real Father

The Redemption of Matthew Quinn

The Saint by Kathleen O'Brien
(Harl. Super. #1231, $5.50, R) ISBN 0-373-71231-6
This is a story full of emotional pain, loss and rebuilding. There is an overall sadness to the tale, yet at the same time, there is hope and love too. At times, it hurts to read about the pain of the characters. This is not a sunny story that will lighten your heart, but it is a well-written, character-driven story.

The Saint refers to Kieran McClintock, the first of the McClintock brothers who will get a story. Kieran, along with owning most of the town of Heydey, Virginia, is the high school football coach and most eligible bachelor. At the beginning of the story, he is developing a tenuous relationship with the sister of one of his players. Steve Strickland loves football and would do anything for his coach, including dragging himself out of bed at 5 A.M. for practice. His sister, Claire, who raised him after their mother's death, just doesn't understand that passion. But she loves Steve enough to get him up and out of the house. On that fateful day, Steve is killed when he loses control of his car and hits a tree. In her deep grief, Claire blames Kieran. She leaves town because she cannot stand to stay.

Two years later, Kieran travels to Richmond on business and stops in to see Claire. He finds a woman quite unlike the one he knew in Heydey. She looks older and worn. Her apartment looks like the apartment of someone who just moved in, yet she has been in this place for two years. She admits that she does little beyond teach, come home and go to bed. Kieran is determined to find the vibrant young woman he knew and they end up making love. Predictably, Claire finds herself pregnant and approaches Kieran about a marriage of convenience. Her plans: marry and spend the summer together, then split in the fall when she returns to her teaching job and then divorce. This way her child is legitimate and her strict private school will find no fault with her remaining on as a teacher. Kieran agrees out of loyalty and duty, and because he has feelings for Claire he wants to explore.

Kieran has demons he needs to work through, including the fact that he knows a secret about Steve's death. He also is in anguish because his father married five times and he swore he would only marry once. As he gets reacquainted with Claire, he realizes the sparks that he felt two years ago are present and stronger than ever. He is a good hero and wants to be there for Claire.

Claire still has unresolved feelings about the loss of her mother and brother, as well as her father (who abandoned the family when she was young). She is in a state of depression and slowly works her way out of it as she learns to start living again. This felt contrived and unrealistic. Claire is deeply depressed and grieving the loss of her brother, and apparently she’s been this way for two years. Yet no one offers her help or suggests she get professional counseling. She is left to flounder and then we are asked to believe that she recovers based on the strength of Kieran’s love, along with a little help from an older woman friend of Kieran's who takes her under her wing and helps to plan the wedding. Claire is an emotionally miserable person when Kieran finds her and it is a little unrealistic to see her making this transition so effortlessly.

There is a disturbing side plot that involves a divorced neighbor of Kieran's who is bitter about the divorce and the fact that she came from the wrong side of the tracks and has never really been accepted by the upper crust of society. She is determined to hurt Kieran (who rejected her) and Claire. The unsettling plot line revolves around her attempted seduction of a 17-year-old (soon to be 18-year-old) football player. Many readers may be turned off by this and this is the primary reason for the R rating. The scenes between Kieran and Claire would rate a PG-13.

If you are interested in the start of a series that holds promise, and are not opposed to a dark tale of love born from the depths of depression, then this story will hold your interest and have you coming back for more. The Saint is well-written; it just may not be everyone's cup of tea.

--Shirley Lyons

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