In Hope’s Shadow by Janice Kay Johnson
This is a sequel to Yesterday’s Gone, an excellent book about an abducted, abused child who is finally found as an adult. Johnson is very good at taking “shocker” plotlines and making them into thoughtful stories that plausibly delve into the emotions of the situation. (Whose Baby, about a mother discovering her daughter was switched at birth, is also very good.)
The follow-up concerns Eve, a foster child who was adopted after Hope’s abduction, and who has always felt like a poor replacement, never truly secure in her parents love. (They aren’t entirely without blame for this, but they do love her.) Her “sister’s” return brought up a lot of jealousy, and it didn’t help that she was found by, and immediately adored by, the cop Eve had been dating. (There are hints of “Laura” — Seth fell for Hope’s age-progressed photo.) As this book opens, Eve has established a friendship with her new sibling, and her remnants of jealousy over Seth don’t survive her blossoming relationship with his gorgeous coworker, Ben.
This was a very engrossing read, and as thoughtful, in its way, as the first book. But I found it a real letdown because I felt that Eve continued to be shortchanged in her own story. Her mother never really acknowledges some of ways her grief impacted on Eve — it’s up to Eve to realize she’s been foolish and unfair.
But it’s her relationship with Ben that is really the carcinogenic cherry on top of the diet sundae. Their first dates make me think of the horrible ones a heroine might go on before meeting Mr. Right. He is constantly hurting her, in a “nice guy” way. And he is ambivalent towards her, and yearning for his e-wife, almost to the very end of the story.
“And yeah, he felt nothing but relaxed acceptance and even anticipation about where they were heading. He’d succumbed without much of a fight, he realized, in part because he hadn’t liked the bachelor lifestyle. He had no hankering to sample a different woman a week.
Gaze resting on Eve, he smiled. He couldn’t get enough of her, in bed or out.
Only the memory of the expression on Nicole’s face shadowed his mood.”
So… he finally, more than 90% into the book, is willing to consider a future with Eve. Because being a bachelor isn’t that great. And even then, he’s still thinking about his ex.
(SPOILERS) When his wife asks if they can try again, he does reject her, but without saying a word about Eve. Instead, Eve has to say it for him:
“‘Then what did I tell Nic?’
Old fears and new collided with the sense of self-worth she had been accepting — a confidence Ben had something to do with. [How, I can’t imagine.] And… was that a smile in his voice?
‘I think — ‘ her voice cracked, but she managed to steady it ‘– you told her you were sorry, that you’re actually madly in love with this spitfire of a woman who keeps you looking beyond the obvious.’
Ben laughed, the skin crinkling beside his very blue eyes, the creases in his cheeks deepening. ‘You’re right.'”
No, actually, you’re completely wrong, because he didn’t say one word about you. And after mooning over his ex for the whole book, he really, really needed to.