Thicker Than Water
by Maggie Shayne, contemporary (2003)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 1-55166-737-1


Sixteen years ago, Julie Jones fled the clutches of cult leader Mordecai Young with the infant daughter of her friend Lizzie. Mordecai and the rest of his cult are thought to have died in a fire the day Julie fled.

Today, "Jewel" is Julie, a professional no-nonsense anchorwoman raising the daughter Dawn. Things are not so rosy though: Julie is being blackmailed by someone that knows of her past. She should probably be happy when this blackmailer turns up murdered, but soon it becomes apparent that someone is trying to clean up all the loose ends regarding Mordecai Young and his cult. Is Julie and/or Dawn next on the list? Oh dear. She finds an unlikely ally in shock-jock Sean MacKenzie.

Thicker Than Water is a book that improves as it goes along. The first few chapters have me cringing as the author writes in an overdramatic and even overwrought style. From her calling the baby girl Dawn in a scene straight out of an oversweet Hallmark movie to Julie acting like a helpless beanie bag girl constantly on the verge of hysterical tears, this book is like a huge bag of sugar precariously balanced on a small pedestal. It'll fall, I'm sure, and cause severe damage on my nerves.

However, to my pleasant surprise, the story really becomes more readable the more I turn the pages. The author introduces twists and turns and red herrings that, while not too original or spectacular by any means, manage to keep me intrigued. The romance is not as strong as the suspense as it's a typical "let's have sex and psychoanalyze it in the morning" affair. Still, the repartee between Julie and Sean is good and even humorous at places.

There is really nothing much I can say about Thicker Than Water except that it's a good romantic suspense story. It doesn't have the extra edge in the romance to make it exceptional, but the suspense is well done and I like how the author leaves behind a dangling potential threat to the couple's happily ever after. There's a hint of danger and menace in this story that most romantic suspense novels inexplicably lack. If this book proves anything, Maggie Shayne should just jilt her messy vampire romances for more romantic suspense stories.

Rating: 84


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