We first meet Leigh and Nick in Disaster Status, but Code Triage can be read as a standalone. Here is their backstory:
Leigh had married a restauranteur; a man with a nice, safe job. Nick was a chef in his own restaurant when they first met, however even then he was making plans to join the police force. Leigh then found herself living with the pressures of being married to a cop, which put a tremendous amount of strain on their relationship. On the other hand, unbeknownst to Nick, Leigh still carries a lot of baggage from her childhood – the kind of baggage that makes her not believe in happily ever after. Leigh spent the first few years of their marriage waiting for the other shoe to drop; she was just waiting for their marriage to fall apart. Sadly, Leigh was never 100% committed to forever. When Leigh found out she was pregnant with a child she knew Nick desperately yearned for, she made the decision not to tell Nick straight away. Instead, she asked him to move out. She wanted time and space to make sure that she wanted to stay married to Nick for their sakes, and not just for the baby. It is during this separation that Nick’s best friend died in the line of duty. Nick did not have his wife to comfort him during this devastating time (and by saying this I am by no means justifying what followed – I just think it is important to realize the importance of always being the one person your space can lean on). In the process of comforting his friend’s sister, one night of too much wine led to Nick breaking his marriage vows. It is clear from both Nick and Samantha’s (the other woman's) later reflections that Nick was confused and absolutely devastated the next morning (it is also clear by Sam’s later actions that Nick is not the first married man she seduced, and trying to get him drunk to get him in her bed seems to be her MO). Nick immediately came clean to Leigh about his night with Sam, and this devastating news led to Leigh losing the baby Nick never knew they had. She never told him about the miscarriage; instead she filed for divorce.
What Calvert did brilliantly here was highlight that a story always has two sides. I like it when things are black and white. Leigh and Nick’s story is not – there are a whole lot of grey areas. Both of them made very big mistakes that shook the fragile foundation of their marriage. This book forced me out of my comfort zone and made me confront my feelings on a very, very, very sensitive topic.
I have never been personally affected by a cheating spouse, but it’s something that breaks my heart every time without fail. Calvert managed what no other author has managed to do – she made me root for Leigh and Nick to get back together. Usually I can’t get past the cheating and I can’t warm up to the hero. In this book I never hated Nick – I hate what had happened, I hate what he did and I hate what it did to his wife and his marriage, but I never hated him. In this case cheating on his wife was truly a dreadful mistake he deeply regrets and not a deliberate act. I was truly invested in this story and I desperately wanted Leigh and Nick to get back together. Their love for each other is very obvious and very deep. They just had some major obstacles to overcome.
I put off reading this book for so long because I simply knew it was going to shatter me. I started crying for Leigh and with Leigh in Disaster Status already, and this time around I started crying on Chapter 1! I read this book in one day. I literally could not stop once I had started; I was positively desperate to discover what happens. I read until about 3:00am, and when I got up the next morning, Code Triage was the first thing on my mind.
Code Triage starts off with Nick’s greatest fear: Leigh and Sam finally meet. Their jobs (police man, doctor, social worker) collide and the three of them find themselves working the same case. Nick helplessly watches as the biggest mistake of his life breaks his wife’s heart all over again. Despite their separation, in the months since he cheated on Leigh he hasn’t touched another woman, especially Sam (despite Sam’s best efforts). Determined to get Leigh to change her mind about the divorce and give their marriage another chance, Nick has only one week until the court date within which he must soften his wife’s broken heart. He has his work cut out for him, but he can’t give up on Leigh; he can’t lose her for good. Slowly but surely Nick invades Leigh’s space and makes her confront her true feelings for him. While she can’t stand being in the same room with him, he knows that she still loves him every bit as much as he loves her and that it is her heartbreak keeping them apart – not lack of love.
Leigh has not only given up on her husband, she has given up on God. He took away her husband and her child, and Leigh is convinced that God doesn’t care about her. As Leigh is forced to daily face not only her husband, but the other woman as well, she starts to think God hates her. Little could she have guessed that God is truly working behind the scenes to save her marriage as well as her soul, and to help her to finally start believing in unconditional, unwavering, forever kind of love.
Nick blames himself, not Sam, for what happened between them and he sees Sam as a victim of his actions as well. Driven by guilt Nick continues to be a part of Sam’s life and he continues to emotionally support Sam and her young daughter in the absence of his deceased friend. Little could he guess the extremes Sam will go to, to drive a wedge between Nick and Leigh. Unbeknownst to Nick, while he is working to salvage Leigh’s trust, Sam is working tirelessly to assault Leigh with taunts and insults, deliberately contradicting Nick’s promises of love and fidelity, making Leigh doubt Nick’s truthfulness and sincerity.
I did not appreciate having to read several sections from Sam’s point of view. I could not stand the woman. Not since Julia in Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion trilogy have I hated a character with such passion. I did not enjoy experiencing Sam’s thoughts and manipulations. And what a manipulator she is! The woman even shamelessly uses her own child to manipulate Nick! Sam continually goes out of her way to hurt Leigh time and time again. What’s even worse than all her blatant attempts to, not only sink her claws into Nick, but to make Leigh believe there was much more going on between Sam and Nick than there ever could be, is the level of enjoyment Sam got out of deliberately destroying someone’s marriage. She took so much pleasure from watching her words and actions cut Leigh’s heart open. I could not bring myself to soften towards this woman at all; not even after discovering why she is so desperate for the love of a good man (being hurt by monsters does not give you an excuse to become one). Despite Sam’s best efforts to destroy Leigh’s heart, marriage and life overall, Leigh was able to not only save Sam’s life but forgive her as well – I am not at all sure that I could do the same. Perhaps that is something I need to reflect on and work on.
As Nick continues to pray for his wife, Leigh finally takes her dusty Bible off the shelf and starts to re-evaluate her stance in the mess that has become her life. Leigh realizes that God never left her – she left Him. Leigh owns her mistakes, faces her greatest fears and opens her heart to the possibility of a love that lasts forever. As Leigh finally embraces what Nick has always believed – that their marriage should be built on a Christian foundation – Nick and Leigh might finally have a chance at happily ever after.
The best books in the world make you feel; and boy did this book make me feel. It made me step away from my rigid black-and-white-preference and examine the grey areas I would honestly have preferred not to deal with. This book made me re-evaluate my stance on a lot of things. It made me ponder, it made me question, it made me consider points of view I never would have considered before. It made me realise anew the importance of protecting your spouse and nurturing your marriage. Considering the intensity of the affect this book had on me and the emotional upheaval it put me through, Code Triage quite simply has to be listed as one of my all-time favourites.
Title: Code Triage
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers