Warner Forever, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61230-8
Romantic Suspense, 2003
Annie Solomon’s debut Like a Knife reads like an overwrought made-for-TV “women’s movie”. It is filled with “What about the Children?!!” moments.
Nick Raine, our hero, is working as a handyman at a preschool. His foster father was an arms dealer and Nick blames himself for a kid’s death. Now, he has to find a kid who may be his son, even if it means going back to that arms dealing foster daddy whom he loathes so much. Ooh, ooh, how sad. Meanwhile, the kid’s teacher, Rachel Goodman, has her own issues. Her mother was murdered. Rachel has self-esteemed issues too (Daddy can do it, so why can’t she?) and blames herself for every inability of hers to drag kids from violent homes to her school of happy peace cakes and love. Why is this woman running a daycare is beyond me. I mean, what about the children? Should we let a borderline depressive woman with issues teach the kids unsupervised? Oh, and her school is going under. She needs money. Nobody wants to give her plenty. I’m not surprised. I’d run away too if I see her gloomy face coming towards me.
Rachel gets beaten up and Nick realizes that his enemies are out to get him through Rachel. But the book doesn’t offer healing as much as the characters going on and on and on about their issues. Nick and Rachel are two determined single-mindedly miserable characters who delight in making martyrs out of themselves. Their issues become their sole personality and their “romantic courtship” is like a race to see who can sport more mental scars when it comes to shouldering guilt. There is a self-absorbed quality to their interactions that make me wonder what will happen to them once the story ends and they will have to try being a little happier in life once in a while. No doubt she will miscarry, he will lose the house, and they will be back to being cheerfully miserable just like how they like their lives to be, unhappily ever after.
Like a Knife has plenty of issues but that’s all it has. The characters never grow – they are just walking magazine subscriptions when it comes to issues. The plot is filled with the necessary gritty violence (nothing too extreme) required in a romantic suspense. But with an unconvincing romance and a plot that is all about the sappy manipulation using kids as an anvil, this one cuts into my emotions in all the wrong ways.