Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review: Stolen Secrets

Book Cover
I have a complicated relationship with romantic suspense. I started out life as a mystery/suspense reader so unlike many romance readers who want a more prominent romance thread - I'm fine if the suspense takes more of the center stage. Also, while I'm generally fine with "women in peril" plots (I cut my teeth on Mary Higgins Clark who was a master at it), I abhor Danger Banging. "Oh noes! The evil drug cartel is chasing us through the jungle but let's duck behind this tree so you can give me an orgasm."  That's the appeal of the Love Inspired Suspense line for me. I'm not going to get any Danger Banging. The trick is - how much God Stuff is going to dominant the narrative?  In the case of Stolen Secrets by Sherri Shackelford, it's not much. A instance of the heroine praying for God's strength as she's dodging bullets and a conversation the hero has with a chaplain about grief.  So if you abhor danger banging but also don't want the author to convert you? This is your book.

Lucy Sutton is a software engineer who works on drone technology and someone is trying to frame her for espionage. She's been receiving mysterious text messages, there's been a security breach at her company, and someone who looks an awful lot like Lucy was caught on camera. It's also been a year since her fiancĂ©, Brandt, was killed. He worked for the NSA (National Security Agency) and he was killed after his cover was blown.  His partner, Jordan Harris, was also hurt in the blast and he's finally keeping his promise to Brandt - he's checking in on Lucy.  But the conversation takes an unexpected turn when Brandt, planning to deliver the engagement ring that Brandt picked up overseas before his death, realizes Lucy already has the ring - an exact duplicate.  Why get a duplicate ring made? And then, right after Lucy shares her fears that someone is out to get her?  The coffee shop where they're meeting gets lit up like a Christmas tree in a hail of gunfire.  Lucy isn't imagining anything - someone obviously is framing her and now someone wants her dead.

This is a cat-and-mouse style suspense thread.  The identity of the bad guy isn't as important as the why of the whole thing - also how it all ties together.  Brandt killed overseas, a duplicate ring, a security breach, drone technology, and someone out to frame Lucy.  These various threads give the author plenty of rope and plenty of opportunity for red herrings.  After all, sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, the bad guys can just as easily be part of a large terror cell or your garden variety criminals.  Shackelford sets it up so she can take the story in several different directions and it succeeded in keeping me off balance for the entirety of the story.

The overall theme of the romance centers around grief, and how we process it - in our own way and time.  Jordan doesn't have survivor's guilt per se, but his guilt is centered around the fact that he's attracted to his best friend's girl.  Lucy loved Brandt and theirs was a whirlwind courtship.  She dreams of marriage, children and while she misses him - she knows it's time to move on.  She just didn't expect to move on with Jordan who sets off a host of butterflies.

I randomly picked this book out of my digital TBR without realizing it's part of a series, but it hangs together well and readers won't feel like they're missing anything (other than it's obvious a previous book featured Jordan's stepsister as the heroine...). I liked this, it kept me entertained, and it was a nice way to kick off my reading year for 2021.

Final Grade = B


Dorine said...

LOLOLOLOL Danger Banging! That's exactly what turns me off in Romantic Suspense. I'm a thriller fiction lover, some horror in my early adult reading days, so that's why I keep trying to love Romantic Suspense. This sounds like a good one. I've enjoyed Shackleford's The Rancher's Christmas Proposal and promised myself I'd buy more and didn't. Thanks for the review!

Wendy said...

Dorine: I had a Zoom call with book reading girlfriends yesterday and we all had a good laugh over "Danger Banging." Inspirational romantic suspense is always tricky for me because I don't want to be preached to, but I've read a handful of Shackelford's historicals (liked them!) and felt fairly confident she'd give me a good mix - and she did. This one was very solid and I'm glad I have the earlier book about the stepsister in my TBR!