Monday, May 23, 2011

What Shall I Do? I Left Him But I Still Love Him . . . Protective Custody by Wynter Daniels

Shocked by the brutal crime she witnesses through the window of her small office, Megan Jackson calls the police and is devastated when they question the truth of her story. With no body and no evidence of a crime, she’ s written off as a nutcase.

Megan suspects the killer saw her face. Terrified, she calls the only person she can trust—her ex-boyfriend and former police officer, Will McCoy.

Despite a devastating breakup, Will jumps at the chance to help the woman who broke his heart. When the killer ramps up the stakes, Will is forced to take her into hiding—where the passion they once shared reignites, deeper and hotter than ever. But can Will keep Megan alive long enough to win back her heart?

The witness protection program is one with which more people are now familiar due to recent television series and the kinds of protective custody that keeps good people away from the bad guys against whom they have testified in court. In this novel the heroine is in very real danger and finds that not only her job and home are on the line but her life may well be forfeit as well, not because she has testified in court, but because she witnessed a murder first-hand.

As is almost always the case with all of us, when we are in deep trouble, the first people we go to are those who either are or have been important figures in one's personal life. Thus, Megan knows one person who knows how to keep her safe if anyone does, and that is the man who she has essentially "kicked to the curb" and a person who she still loves deeply. To Will's credit, in spite of his shattered emotions and a relationship gone bad for reasons he really doesn't know, he comes to Megan's rescue, pulling strings and requesting favors of former cop associates to find the man whose murderous actions are now putting Megan's life in danger.

This love story has several layers that draw in the interest of the reader. First, there is the tension of finding the person who committed the crime Megan witnessed. Then there are her problematic relationships with law enforcement and the officers who really don't believe she saw anything. No physical evidence to support her claims, so she must just be some dipsy doodle female out for some attention, right? Add in the upended love relationship between Will and Megan and the pressures to end the affair from Will's mom and Megan's grandmother, and you have a story that has lots of push/pull in it. There are some developments in the progress of the story that are surprising and some twists and turns near the end that sort of came out of the blue. Megan's own unsettled emotions about Will don't help any, either.

I liked the messy nature of this story because, after all, life at its best is messy. Human relationships are never clear and concise and progress along sharp and clearly defined boundaries. Certainly this love affair was messy. I got the feeling that Megan wanted to let go of a lot of the drama in her life--I'm not sure she really could--but it just seemed to follow her around. And when she began to experience some serious threats to her life and livelihood, the situation went downhill fast. I liked Will a lot--a man who loved deeply and with great loyalty, one whose open acceptance of Megan, a black woman, never waivered. He was a person who accepted her rejection of him but his hurt lay primarily in the mystery as to why she would reject him in the first place, especially when he was so sure that his deep and abiding love was returned. I liked that he was able to put aside his anger and hurt in order to see her safe, even if there wasn't any future for them together. It is the mark of a true friend.

What I didn't like was the prejudice that lay at the heart of both family's opposition to this interracial couple. I really didn't like Will's mother who went behind her son's back to undercut any future they might have together, to be very clear that Megan was not welcome either in Will's family or his social circles. She was clearly an emotional and selfish "barracuda" who perceived Megan's insecurities and anxieties and used them for her own purposes. The opposition of Megan's grandmother was far more complicated and grew out of years of discrimination that has scarred and warped her responses to white folks in general and to any white man who would potentially love her granddaughter. What I disliked most was Megan's unwillingness to put her love for Will in a priority position. She loved her grandmother and wanted to be a support for her at the end of her life. After all, her grandmother was all the family she had. Yet a love as deep as Megan's and one which appeared to be moving toward marriage would have to be the "forsaking all others" kind of love. I didn't like at all that she would rather jettison Will and any future they had together just to keep from revealing his mother's back-biting and resistance to the marriage; she also chose to place the ease of her grandmother's emotions over her own future. On the surface this would seem unselfish. I don't think so. Will needed to know the depth of his own mother's prejudice and make his own decision about what his relationship would be with his parents. Megan took that choice away from him. And most of all, he really needed to understand the full scope of her reasons for ending the affair. If she loved him, she owed him that. I just don't think Megan really had emotional maturity as evidenced by her choices.

All that being said, this is a love story that is complicated by the tension surrounding the witness of this murder. It is one that is not warm and fuzzy given that Will and Megan were embroiled in their recent hurtful history. I have to admit that the book held my interest from page one. As such it was, at least for me, a good read. There were some emotional ups and downs and at times I really could empathize with Megan's anxiety over the entire mess. There were times when I was irritated at her for some of her choices which seemed not to be well thought out. But in the final analysis, I found this book to be a very interesting one, and one that highlighted some of the issues surrounding interracial relationships and the choices that inevitably lay before couples who seriously consider long-term involvement. It also highlighted the power of personal ambition and the addictive nature of some very dysfunctional relationships which can and do lay at the heart of choices that are unwise and, in the long run, destructive.

This is the first Wynter Daniels book I have read and I liked her writing style, her way with words, her ability to tell a story that developed the characters but was not overly wordy with internal monologues. Because of the social issues involved she could have so easily gotten on a "soap box" of sorts as some novelists tend to do, yet she did not. She just let the story tell itself and allowed the reader to draw one's own conclusions about the prejudice and resistance to an interracial relationship. There was certainly lots of love in this narrative but there was also that underlying tension caused by the insidious nature of the push to kill her. I think lovers of mystery mixed with romance will probably like this book. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

This novel was released 09 May 2011 by Carina Press.

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