After escaping death in a school shooting, a mild-mannered woman begins to demand a little respect.
New headmistress at the Markham School Emma Dunham is beautiful and accomplished—a kind of Grace Kelly figure in the stuffy staff lounge. She is just the kind of woman speech therapist Frannie Reid would like to be, but that would require a kind of easy confidence she can’t imagine. Frannie does have a cheering team—Jill, a fellow therapist at Markham, and Lisa, a new science teacher. Their relationship is palpable—they swear and joke and snipe like real friends—and the two encourage Frannie to date since pompous Ryan, head of the history department, dumped her. On a rare faculty night out, she meets Sam. An architect working on an expansion to the school, he is handsome, has a lovely Southern drawl and really gets Frannie. It feels like kismet until the night of Emma Dunham’s birthday party at the school. Emma’s creepy husband Jamie walks in and shoots Emma in the head. He spins around and begins aiming at anyone close enough, and then Sam gets hold of the gun and shoots. Afterward Sam goes home with Frannie to change out of their bloody clothes, and they have desperate, frightened, bone-shattering, love-inducing sex. And then, they don’t see each other for a very long time. Sam is coming to terms with having killed a man (while being praised as a hero) and Frannie is wondering why the woman she wanted to emulate turned out to be an abused wife. Although the romance between Sam and Frannie has pull, Palmer spins a few enticing subplots: Frannie adopts Emma’s beautiful dog, Lisa and fellow architect Grady decide to marry after the shock of the shooting, Frannie contacts Emma’s estranged sister and finds that their childhood primed Emma for a life of abuse. All this has to happen before Frannie and Sam can decide whether their relationship can survive the shooting.
Palmer brings wit and wisdom to her tale of love, damage and self-acceptance.