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Thicker Than Water    by Maggie Shayne order for
Thicker Than Water
by Maggie Shayne
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Teenage runaway Jewel Jones and her closest friend (and recent mother) Lizzie find themselves under the control of religious leader Mordecai Young, who's been targeted by the authorities as a known drug and arms dealer. Their eventual escape coincides with an FBI raid gone horribly wrong. Jewel, Lizzie, her baby Sunshine and two other girls are the only survivors. Gravely wounded, Lizzie stays behind after exacting a promise from Jewel to 'take care of my little girl'.

Sixteen years later, Jewel is a very successful news anchor, Julie Jones. She's being blackmailed by Harry Blackwood, sleazy brother of the governor. Determined to get Harry off her back, Julie visits his apartment only to find him murdered. Aware that she'll be the prime suspect, Julie tampers with the crime scene hoping to buy time to build a more solid alibi. She manages to temporarily fool the police, but not Sean MacKenzie, popular radio personality and also Julie's number one professional rival. Grateful, yet highly suspicious when Sean doesn't give her up to the police, Julie agrees to work with him, not only because her professional persona couldn't stand it if he scooped her but also because she's not sure of his true motives.

The feeling's mutual. Sean MacKenzie needs a big career boosting story right about now and will do just about anything to get it. So why didn't he rat out Jones to the cops? Getting dirt on the current media darling would be a journalistic coup. His gut instincts tell him the beautiful lady's hiding more than her connection to Harry Blackwood's messy and untimely death. What Sean doesn't count on is falling in love with the beautiful Ms. Jones and her sassy and wise-beyond-her-years daughter Dawn. Is it possible for three such different people to build a family together? Or will secrets from both Julie's and Sean's pasts destroy that dream before it even sprouts wings?

Prolific and talented Maggie Shayne brings fans another great story. The personalities and jobs of leads, Julie and Sean, make them automatic rivals - easy-going and slick 'shock jock' vs. 'beautiful and sophisticated' news anchor. They are the heart of the story with snappy, smart and often funny exchanges - not to mention scorching sexual tension - which win readers over immediately. Fine pacing and a few nifty plot twists keep the story taut and riveting. Secondaries shine too (though Shayne does falter a bit in Young's very stereotypical characterization), particularly Julie's daughter Dawn who, like her mother, will do almost anything to keep them together.

As a whole, Thicker Than Water is a winning romantic suspense with a valuable theme about the real meaning of family. Its ending smacks of a sequel, one I'll definitely be on the lookout for.

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