“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?!” Lamented Professor Higgins, in My Fair Lady, going on to list all the ways in which he found men to be more congenial, more open and generally easier to get along with. The poor professor – as do many men, even those who have happily married – was completely baffled by the opposite sex. Like Paul, the husband of the Sara Weber, the heroine of this novel; they have been happily married for nearly twenty years. Halfway across the country, with successful personal and professional lives and pleasant home together, and yet Paul’s ex-wife still has the power to set Paul and Sara at each others’ throats.

Mona expertly uses hers and Paul’s daughter as a wedge, constantly extracting concessions and seeking an advantage. The fact that Paul yields on every front, rather than risk alienating his daughter invariably reduces Sara to exasperation and fury. He does not see Mona’s actions as the sort of aggression they actually are. Most men would not. Male aggression is out there, as obvious as a swung fist or a naval broadside from a wooden ship. Female aggression is delicate malice over the tea-table, the veiled look and the needle-sharp comment. It’s on a frequency above male hearing, like a dog-whistle; Paul is genuinely unaware of it, but Sara is bitterly conscious of every one of Mona’s stratagems.

And thereby hangs the tale, and the battle for Sara and Paul’s marriage, when Paul’s daughter comes to live with them and attend college. Sara, herself the child of a divorced couple, begins to suspect that Mona is trying to reconcile with Paul at her expense. “Second Chance” deals even-handedly with the scars of separation and divorce, and in the various responses which characters have to it; some of them healthy and realistic, and some of them deeply warped, but in a way that anyone who has been through the divorce wars can recognize. Tightly plotted and with crisply written dialogue, “Second Chance” is a luminously sympathetic look at marriages lost and found, and almost lost but found again.

“Second Chance” is available through Amazon.com.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com

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