mending fences book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

If you like character-driven, well-written books, then you have probably already read something by Sherryl Woods. I can’t think of anyone who does them better! All her books contain conflict, which is essential to any plot, but Mending Fences one has CONFLICT! Big-time conflict on so many levels I couldn’t begin to identify all of them.

Although it was originally published in 2007, this is a new edition, and could have been ripped out of today’s headlines. In the author’s own words from the preface, this is the story of . . .

What would happen between two families who’d shared so many important events, so many hopes and dreams and such a deep friendship, if something tragic occurred with the potential to split them apart?

One family is Derek and Emily and their two kids Josh and Dani. Derek is an executive whose employment requires a lot of time traveling hither and thither in order to support his family in the manner he thinks they should enjoy. Once the kids are in school, Emily returns to the teaching job she loved so much before her marriage. She isn’t much of a cook or housekeeper, but nobody starves and the home has an inviting warmth and balance to it.

Ken and Marcie and their two kids, Evan and Caitlyn, move into the house next door. Although their backgrounds are very dissimilar, the women and kids bond almost immediately. Ken’s job as a PR expert leaves him emotionally and at times physically distant from his family, while Marcie sees her job as that of stay-at-home wife and mother. They live  in a showplace–all shiny chrome and glass and no dust. Anywhere. Marcie volunteers for PTA and other functions, always ready to bake or otherwise support the kid’s activities.

For ten years, all goes fairly smoothly. In the meantime, Emily and Derek have divorced, and the boys have gone off to college. Evan is a burgeoning football star on the local level, although there is talk of a future in the NFL. And then, Evan is arrested on a charge of date-rape. In an almost Machiavellian plot that has umpteen twists and turns, both families slowly unravel. Ken refuses to accept the evidence, and determines to protect his son, regardless of the lies he must tell and attempts to coerce others into denying the facts, as well.

Detectives Grady Rodriguez and Theresa Lansing work patiently with the young woman, Lauren Brown, to obtain as much evidence and information as possible, to help them bring the offender to justice. Ken unfolds a vicious scheme to nullify her claims and the supporting evidence. Surely there must have been other victims? If only they could find at least one other.

Grady has a sadness in his past which really resonates with him as the investigation proceeds. He is drawn to Emily and she to him, in spite of their mutual efforts to resist the magnetic pull. These are characters you really care about, and root for them to find their happy ending, hidden among the ashes of their previous lives.

When an additional shock unfolds, further entangling the two families, decisions are made, sharp words are spoken and threats are made. Who is telling the truth here? It’s not easy for any of these people to understand or know who to believe as accusations are thrown back and forth and up and down.

This is a totally engrossing story that I found nearly impossible to put down for even ten minutes at a time. It’s such a believable happening that mirrors today’s society in all aspects, providing much to think and wonder about.

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First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.