In Plain Sight

Just Around the Corner

The Secret Son

Somebody's Baby

White Picket Fences

The 1st Wife
by Tara Taylor Quinn
(Harl. Super #1656, $5.50. PG) ISBN 978-0373-71656-2
Tara Taylor Quinn has started a new series that centers on a therapist and cases she comes in contact with. In The 1st Wife, the situation involves a man who is accused of killing his second wife, but she may have committed suicide. The man was also a bigamist. Jane Hamilton was the first wife and she divorced James Todd when she found him stepping out with her. Turns out, not only was he sleeping with Lee Anne but he proceeded to marry her. Then he stepped out on her with Marla and married her too...essentially he was once divorced and three times married. James was trying to divorce LeeAnne, but she objected to the fact that he was living with Marla and apparently was trying to blackmail him. Her "accident" or "suicide" or "murder" was the result.

James Todd was charming in his own way, and attracted women like crazy. Psychologist and expert witness Kelly Chapman has a practice in Chandler, Ohio, which is where the trial for James Todd is set. The prosecutor, who is a personal friend of Kelly's, has a feeling that Todd is a conniving murderer who is hiding behind his charm. His third woman, Marla, has now married him legally and is claiming spousal immunity. So the key to the case is Jane Hamilton.

Jane lives in Allenville, Illinois outside of Chicago. She has established a women's magazine that targets women who need help being independent. Jane is the editor and in many ways, the role model. She is divorced and standing on her own. She is respected in her field and has built her reputation on tenacity and strength. Jane is not involved in a relationship, unless you can call her friendship of many years with Brad Manchester a relationship. They are best friends and talk every day. They know all there is to know about each other and like each other anyway. Brad is afraid of commitment and his life revolves around one-night stands. Jane is just too busy to date.

But we soon find out that they really don't know everything. In a weak moment Jane shares that one of the problems with her marriage was her inability to feel anything when having sex. Brad assures her that it was probably James' fault. He sets out to prove her wrong and they end up in bed. This puts a major kink in their platonic friendship, especially since it was mind-blowing sex and neither was expecting it. Now both are trying to deny the explosiveness and the fact that it awakened feelings they never thought they'd feel for each other. They both are afraid of committed relationships so they try to pretend that they can just go back to being friends ithout the perks. Neither is very good at the pretense so their relationship suffers.

Jane is also being asked to come to meet with the psychologist and possibly testify at the trial. Both the prosecutor and the psychologist are convinced that James Todd was abusive...maybe not in the physical sense, but definitely in the emotional sense. In fact, Jane has a history of weird accidents that resulted in injury. James accidently dropped a weight on her foot, breaking it. She fell down the stairs, but swears she wasn't pushed since James was beside her not behind her. And there were other accidents, too.

The story follows both Jane's floundering relationship with Brad and the uncomfortable sessions with Kelly Chapman. As Jane struggles with Brad, she is forced to relive her experiences withJames and she feels vulnerable. She also starts to question her whole persona. This story is at times uncomfortable as Jane confronts things she has hidden from herself and things she has rationalized as a protective method. Brad is a great guy and ultimately fights his demons to earn the hero status for Jane. Unfortunately, I felt this story moved way too slowly. I was able to guess what was happening with Jane right away, as did Kelly, and it was frustrating to read while Jane continued to deny what the reader knew.

On one hand, I enjoyed Brad and Jane yet on the other, I wanted to scream at them. And when the author threw in the old cliche of "what happens after just one bout of sex"...I realized I could never be completely satisfied.

The premise of following cases of this very likable psychologist is interesting, however, and I will look into the other books in the series as they come out. I have always enjoyed Tara Taylor Quinn and this one slight disappointment will not stop me from seeking her out again.

--Shirley Lyons

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