Reviewed by Evangeline Jennings
The Candidate’s Daughter
Everyone loves Holly McClaine and that’s a good thing. Because she was born with Down syndrome and a cleft palate, and also has a scar on her face from a failed oral surgery and lacks the capacity to properly form words. But she’s an angel and everybody loves her. Except her parents and nanny. And the men who kidnap her.
The clue to Catherine Lea’s plot is in the title. Holly’s father is Richard McClaine. He’s running for the Senate and considered a good outside bet for the White House one day. When The Candidate’s Daughter is taken from her school in the closing stages of his election campaign, McClaine finds it hard to prioritize Holly’s safety while her drunk of a mother learns the hackneyed old lesson that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
At heart, this competent if not actually thrilling thriller is all about women. Also motherhood. And the maternal instinct. When Holly is kidnapped, her teacher risks life and limb in her efforts to protect her. Kelsey, the woman who actually seizes Holly, soon changes her mind, falls for the little girl, and becomes an unlikely heroine in the vein of Liza Cody’s Eva Wylie.
Meanwhile Elizabeth McClaine rediscovers herself and her love for her daughter.
The best of Lea’s secondary characters are also women – Alice, the hateful campaign manager and Diana, a caring journalist – no, really.
It’s kind of a chick book. Imbued with a little special pleading on behalf of both children like Holly and the parents who sometimes cannot cope. And it’s a good read, mostly done well.