CUSTODY by Nancy Thayer


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A newly appointed family court judge discovers that the male defendant in her first custody case is her secret lover—and that’s only the prologue to this mix of old-fashioned romance and trendy issues like adoption, surrogate parenthood, and obsessive-behavior disorder.

After setting up the major crisis facing Judge Kelly MacLeod, how she’ll avoid presiding over a case involving her lover without dishonoring her role as judge, Thayer (Between Husbands and Friends, 1999) backs up to show how Kelly got herself into this predicament. After Kelly’s father died in Vietnam, she was raised by her mother and her father’s parents, but during Kelly’s senior year in college, her mother, under the sway of her evil second husband, absconded with Kelly’s inheritance. Suddenly destitute, Kelly acted as a surrogate mother to pay her way through law school, holding her newborn daughter just long enough to fall in love with her (and notice a small but crucial-to-the-plot birthmark).Years later, Kelly has become a highly respected lawyer when her mother reenters her life and renews their relationship before dying. On subsequent weekly visits to the cemetery, Kelly encounters an attractive middle-aged man visiting his recently deceased mother’s grave. Although they don’t exchange names at first, we know he is Randall Madison, a doctor whose soon–to-be ex-wife Anne is a rising liberal politician Kelly happens to support. Randall and Anne’s adopted daughter was born of an anonymous surrogate mother (guess who) with Randall’s sperm. Kelly, despite a disposable fiancé, and Randall fall in love while Randall and Anne fight over their daughter. The fact that Anne is an obsessive-compulsive neurotic and a wildly overprotective, occasionally violent mother while Randall is a sweetheart of a dad, his marital infidelity explained as the result of Anne’s disgust for sex, weakens Thayer’s attempts at evenhandedness late in the story—when love and humane justice prevail.

An intriguing premise undermined by heavy-handed plot manipulation and shallow people.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-27734-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001


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