This novel of a man successfully juggling two separate lives could have gone either way, with David/Eric McCoy as either a scheming, duplicitous husband to two unsuspecting women or an ultimately redeemable character caught up in the complications of loving—and marrying—two women.
When McCoy collapses from a brain aneurism in a coffee shop while chatting with ex-detective Jason Cheddick, a search of the fallen man’s belongings yields two driver’s licenses and addresses; only the surname is the same. When police arrive at the scene, one of them—Jason’s sister, Jude Connelly—thinks Jason’s work as a private investigator may come in handy in untangling this mystery.
Two women are contacted and urged to come to the hospital and identify the patient: event planner Kendra McCoy, married to David the longest, and Lesley McCoy, more recently wed to Eric. Aside from the elephant in the living room—bigamy—both women are completely ambushed by the turn of events, each believing their husband’s business commitments necessitate frequent travel. An added wrinkle: Lesley is pregnant. Aside from McCoy’s immediate prognosis, which is dire, each “wife” faces her co-wife and the likely problems of the future.
While David/Eric lies in a coma, Baker supplements her premise with the dramas of a variety of characters: Lesley’s widowed mother, Beatrice, and her closeted aunt, Cassandra, neither of whom want Lesley to return to the rural cabin she shared with Eric; Kendra’s parents, Peony and Sam, who own a small restaurant; Jason’s sixteen-year-old son, Fletcher; Jude Connelly’s disabled husband, Travis, who refuses to let paralysis limit his life; and Robyn, David/Eric’s doctor (and Cassandra’s rekindled love interest). Alternating current events with McCoy’s past as a foster child and the early romances of each couple, the author massages the story in a manner that suggests the inevitable happy ending in spite of the odds, a harmony of interests and decisions, including funds for McCoy’s rising medical bills from an unexpected source. What might be insurmountable problems for real folks are given simple, fortuitous solutions.
In attempting to provide something to like about everyone, too much tempering of human flaws robs the reader of any opportunity to form an opinion. The smoothing of natural conflict and a heavy serving of compassion take the bite out of an inherently interesting conundrum. Baker takes “can’t we all just get along” to another level. By the end of the novel, I not only anticipated the resolution of events but completely lost interest in the characters, including the not-very-mysterious-after-all Mr. McCoy.