|The Oklahoma Brand girls are back, and if you are a first time reader know that each story stands alone well. Even if you have been out of the “Brand”loop for a while Shayne’s characters are so memorable that the reader will not miss a beat. The plot requires more suspension of disbelief than usual, but this is balanced by snappy dialogue and the usual warm interaction among the characters.
Chicago cop Jimmy Corona was originally from the Brand girl’s hometown. He married Angie not aware she was a drug addict. Although he apparently suspected something because he thought the birth of their child would straighten her out. Instead, when Tyler was a month old, while high on cocaine, Angie fell down two flights of steps holding him, causing unspecified spine and leg damage which years later he is still struggling with.
Jimmy divorced her, retained sole custody and went on with his life caring for Tyler with a series of unsuccessful nannies. He is currently in the process of “interviewing” prospective wives to care for Tyler. He of course wants no emotional connection with the lucky winner, as he has been once burned.
As the story opens, Jimmy’s ex-wife is on his doorstep begging him to recant his proposed testimony against porn king Skinny Vinnie. Angie has fallen in love with Vinnie and views this as her chance for a great life. Drug clouds have buried the reality that she did not meet Vinnie until after his arrest, and after it was known her ex-husband’s evidence would assure the conviction.
The Chicago police chief is nervous that Vinnie will find some successful coercive tactic to shut Jimmy and his partner up so he tells then to get out of town for awhile. Jimmy and his partner and Tyler head back to where Jimmy grew up.
Meanwhile at home, the ugly gawky ducking Kara has become a swan, thanks to the skills of her sisters of many talents. Her weakness is her warm and generous heart and when she runs into her high school idol Jimmy again, she immediately falls in love with his engaging son. Kara is in the process of buying Jimmy’s old home to establish a day care center. In exchange for some work around the yard and house, she offers Jimmy and Tyler free lodging there.
Jimmy realizes he has found the perfect wife in Kara and immediately implements his plan to woo and to marry her. Kara is afraid to believe this could be real, because she is after all still an ugly duckling mentally.
And since the reader knows it isn’t real as well, time is spent waiting for the shoe to drop.
Not surprisingly, Skinny Vinnie finds where they are and the story proceeds lazily to resolution from that point. Both Kara and Jimmy’s perspectives are presented in strong voices. Their interaction with each other and with Tyler manages to almost obscure the many plot weaknesses.