I'm a fan of Mary Jo Putney for her wonderful Regency-period novels, but I've also read her one mediaeval and loved it, so decided to give this one a chance despite the mixed reviews here. And I'm very glad I did. Putney has certainly not lost her talent for taking a seeming impossible relationship and bringing the couple back together. Here, along with forgiveness and understanding, goes redemption.
I liked Putney's way of introducing us to her two main characters. We meet Kate and Donovan when they've been divorced for ten years, but are not told what caused the break-up of their marriage. Instead, we get to meet them both and get to know them a little first. And Donovan seems to be a nice guy, considerate, understanding, regretful over the way he treated Kate. By letting her readers get to know Donovan in this way, Putney not only lets us get to know him without preconceptions and, as a result, come to like him; it means that when we do find out what happened in Kate and Donovan's marriage, the shock is all the greater.
Domestic violence is unacceptable. I have no intention of getting into the debate which has raged in these reviews about whether it is or is not a forgiveable offence. Putney herself acknowledges that it is a highly controversial theme to include in a romance. However, I did accept by the end of the book that she had shown Donovan as not only genuinely sorry for what he'd done, but also as someone who had overcome his violent impulses. He'd worked out why he was violent (violent, controlling father, the influence of alcohol), and had undergone counselling and treatment. He had unlearned the habit of violence. I was totally convinced of that. And so I was totally convinced that Kate was right to come to love him again.
What spoilt the book somewhat for me, though, was the dramatic/action/mystery plot. It took over too much for my liking: I prefer my romances to focus on the individuals. I understand that Putney was using the demolition industry as a metaphor for the characters' relationships, but that's not really what I want from a novel, and for me it overshadowed the *real* story. There were also a few too many secondary characters; I might wonder whether Putney is considering writing about some of Kate's friends, except that I hoped for similar follow-ups to Uncommon Vows and it didn't happen. I suspect Putney likes to try out different genres as experimentation, whether or not she intends to continue writing in those genres, but still finds it hard to resist introducing a whole cast of secondary characters just in case she might want to make use of them some day. (That said, I did like the secondary romance in this book).
So, while I enjoyed this book and will definitely keep it, it won't be re-read with the same enjoyment or frequency as M-J P's historical novels.