Friday, February 12, 2010

'High Anxiety' Offers Fun Break From Daily Stress

Kate Holly just can't seem to catch a break. The clinical psychologist from Atlanta, Georgia, endures catastrophe after catastrophe in each book in this series from novelist Charlotte Hughes, and the third (and newest) installment High Anxiety is no exception. Of course, catastrophe is somewhat the business Kate is in; she counsels patients with mental illness at her practice in a multi-business building in Atlanta (You can do your banking AND grab a bite to eat after your therapy session!).

There's the former Marine with gender identity disorder (who currently lives with Kate's own mother and aunt), the man with OCD who feels he has to move anytime he brings dirt into his home, the woman with borderline personality disorder who feels the world revolves around her, and -- of course -- the lady with multiple personality disorder whose personalities change as frequently as other people might change the music on their iPods. Kate tries her best to help her patients live normal lives, but she is always getting caught up in the midst of her own personal problems (and having to deal with the touch of OCD she herself suffers from).

In High Anxiety, Kate and ex-husband Jay are still trying their best to make their relationship work. He's a firefighter with a history of getting hurt on the job; his commitment to his work drives Kate crazy. She'd rather he settle down and find a less accident-prone career. But Jay worries about Kate, as well; the patients Kate sees have a tendency to get violent when unhappy. Her office has been blown up, and she's suffered various maladies in the previous two novels. But both stick to their guns and refuse to give up the work they love. Thus, they've been divorced and now are trying to work through their issues.

As Jay travels to Florida to help fight an outbreak of wildfires, Kate has troubles of her own back in Atlanta. First, she gets involved in a minor shooting incident while managing an anger management group. Then one of her patients goes into crisis and has to be hospitalized. In addition to all of these problems, Kate's best friend and secretary Mona falls ill. When Mona's replacement from a temp agency begins at the office, she brings with her a whole host of new problems.

Like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and the "Full" series that Hughes and Evanovich pen together, Hughes inserts plenty of humor into the Kate Holly series, as well. Kate's mother and aunt provide much of it, with their twin overalls and big pick-up truck for junk-finding. Kate's patients also provide comic relief at times, mixed in with their actual problems. (As we often say in the social work business, 'You have to laugh, or you'd cry.') Romance comes into the series through both the relationship between Kate and Jay, as well as the constant badgering Kate endures from her old beau and colleague Thad. And, of course, Hughes includes a bit of suspense as the reader wonders what will result from Kate's new hire.

High Anxiety is good southern fun. As I mentioned above, Hughes has partnered with Janet Evanovich in the past. Her Kate Holly series is the latest solo project she's done. In addition to the "Full" series with Evanovich and the Kate Holly series, she has written dozens of romance, romance-suspence, and "soft" horror novels. Visit her website for more info on other books, tour information, and her blog.

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