Wednesday’s Child (HQN 2005) by Gayle Wilson (384 pgs) is a romantic suspense novel. This TBR Challenge review was submitted by fellow reader Janet Webb aka @JanetNorCal.
This month’s TBR category is categories and as it happened, I spent most of the weekend organizing my book shelves. My keeper and TBR books are shelved together: I put little green or orange dots on my TBR books. Fast forward to the W books — I spotted Wednesday’s Child by Gayle Wilson and decided to read it for the challenge. I really like Gayle Wilson’s historicals but I have never read one of her contemporaries.
Here’s the back cover description:
“It wasn’t over yet. Susan Chandler’s husband vanished without a trace…along with their one-year-old daughter. Now, seven years later, their car has been pulled from a river in some backwater Mississippi town, along with the body of her husband and an empty baby seat. The local sheriff is calling it an accident, but for Susan, things just don’t add up. Major Jeb Bedford has one thing on his mind—to get his body back into working order and rejoin his Delta Force team ASAP. But Susan Chandler’s quiet desperation echoes his own struggles. And somehow, protecting Susan and helping her discover the truth becomes more important than anything…”
Seven years after her husband and daughter disappeared (and her husband emptied their bank account), Susan gets a phone call saying a car has been found. She immediately goes to the small southern town and starts asking questions … and more questions … and more questions. The push-back from the townsfolk felt pretty predictable: stranger starts poking around and they all close ranks.
The town is so small that there’s no motel but the sheriff suggests she ask Lorena Bedford if she can stay in her antebellum mansion. The southern setting was great, and so was Mrs. Bedford. Lorena is in her late eighties but she’s no slouch: she’s feisty, well-informed, and an excellent southern cook. The hero, Jeb Bedford, is Lorena’s great-nephew and he’s staying with his great-aunt while he rehabs.
There weren’t a lot of surprises in this book. The h/h don’t really hit it off at the beginning but that gradually changes. Susan is very flat, in my opinion. Unlike “Cry No More”, the book by Linda Howard that I compared this to as I read it, I didn’t have much sense of how the last seven years had passed for Susan. And maybe her quiet, not really involving personality, was a reflection of her unhappiness and deep sorrow over the loss of her daughter.
Jeb was again, rather a stock character, a special ops soldier desperate to return to the fray, but I was interested in his mental and physical struggles to get back in shape. A side note: his doctor had on his wall the quotation that Nelson Mandela quoted in the movie Invictus. As I said, Susan asks questions and gets precious little information back and then accidents start to happen: a car trying to run her off the road and such. It’s clear that there’s a conspiracy of silence which Susan and Jeb try to break through.
At a moment of despair, they come together in “an attempt to forget”. Even writing that makes me think “cliché alert” but at least their sexual interlude is twenty or so pages instead of one (I’m not measuring pages as much as intimacy: they do talk, they are changed by their love-making) but I still felt removed from it and not convinced.
I “knew” who the daughter was very early on – which I thought rang a bit false. When things started to fall together, the plot went into overdrive: surprising villains, everyone was crashing around in the swampy woods, deaths and so on and so forth. The mother and child reunion struck me as particularly false and unbelievable. After a seven year gap, the ease with which the little girl shifted loyalties was just too pat. In the epilogue, everything is presented as pretty much peachy keen and even the little girl’s name is different.
Putting my cards on the table, I really don’t like books about missing children. Even with a promised happy ending, it’s just too painful reading. Why then is Linda Howard’s Cry No More one of my most re-read and favored books of all time? I think it’s because the ending is so painfully true: elapsed time cannot be papered over, even if your child was taken away from you in a criminal fashion. In books with this plot, bittersweet seems more believable than everything working as seamlessly as it did in “Wednesday’s Child”. I just was not able to suspend my disbelief enough to buy into the story.