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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

#TBRChallenge 2023: Wilderness Sabotage

The Book: Wilderness Sabotage by Heather Woodhaven

The Particulars: Inspirational romantic suspense, Love Inspired Suspense #852, 2020, out of print, available digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: This was an impulse purchase, most likely from a library used book sale.

The Review: Once again I waited until the last possible minute to pick out, let alone read, my TBR Challenge book - which meant I went diving into my category romance stash.  I also knew I wasn't in the mood to tolerate Danger Banging (Oh noes! The Evil Drug Cartel is chasing us through the rain forest but lets hide behind this tree so you can give me a screaming orgasm!). Folks, that's why I read inspirational romantic suspense. No danger banging.  Anyway, this one also comes with a hefty dose of survival skills, man vs. the elements stuff and I'm a sucker for that in a romance novel. Will the couple fall in love before they freeze to death? Time will tell.

Jackie Dutton is a journalist and has come to a construction site on federal land to investigate reports of sabotage. She's wrapping things up, needing to get back to civilization before an impending blizzard hits, when she witnesses a murder. She manages to get away, but not before, quite literally, falling off a cliff.  The only reason she survives is thanks to an ex-boyfriend she never thought she'd see again.

Shawn Burkett is a law enforcement ranger with the Bureau of Land Management. He was driving out to check on an archeologist working in the area when he spotted a snowmobile driving recklessly near the cliff. He decides to investigate and that's when he finds Jackie, precariously hanging off the cliff's edge. It's in the process of rescuing her that the bad guys come back, and the fun begins. Jackie and Shawn are now on the run, in the middle of nowhere, with an impending blizzard barreling down on them, with limited resources.  Who are these bad guys and what the heck is going on?

This is, first and foremost, an action-adventure story. Once Jackie witnesses the murder, the story and the bad guys do not let up.  Our couple is on the run throughout the story, losing supplies, finding supplies, encountering a pack of wolves feeding, falling through an icy lake - you name it, it happens to them. Part of the emotional baggage is that Jackie happens to be the daughter of a famous survivalist / TV presenter (think Bear Grylls) and naturally there are some Daddy Issues.  Shawn grew up with Jackie and her twin brother, was constantly around the Dutton household, and credits Jackie's father for his love of the outdoors.

So what tore these two crazy kids apart?  Well as teenagers Jackie and Shawn dated in secret because Shawn's BFF (Jackie's twin brother) basically told Shawn to stay away from his precious sister. Then there's an accident, Jackie's brother is severely hurt, her dad says some words in anger and blames Shawn for the accident.  Shawn, being a romance hero, takes off and severs all ties, effectively breaking Jackie's heart.  Now they're thrown together in the middle of nowhere with bad guys trying to murder them and all this unresolved emotional stuff between them.  I'm not sure what's scarier.

It's a solid read, plenty of action, and the pages turn easily.  Being this is an inspirational, the God Stuff mainly comes into play while praying for survival, being in immediate danger etc.  Sometimes it was a light touch, sometimes it felt shoe-horned in.  I've read more ham-fisted inspirationals, but I didn't always feel these elements were incorporated seamlessly.  Also things get a bit too precious for me at the end once the couple is rescued. There's a big family reunion scene, mushy declarations of love, and (naturally) a marriage proposal that all felt a little too twee for me. But I'm old, cranky and a champion eye-roller.

I liked the survivalist stuff and I thought the mystery behind what the bad guys were up to was refreshingly different - not your typical serial killer and/or drug cartel plot thread. It just happened to lose steam for me once our couple gets rescued and rides off into the sunset.

Final Grade = C+


azteclady said...

This sounds like something I would enjoy without the praying (sorry, that yanks me out of a story so fast I leave burn marks). Yay for a good action yarn! Boo for a twee ending!

eurohackie said...

I also waited until the last minute (when I literally couldn't cross stitch any more because my hands and arms hurt so much) and I also grabbed a book off my Love Inspired Suspense pile. I chose "Buried Ranch Secrets" by Lisa Childs. I had basically the opposite experience from you: this is a Hallmark Christmas movie about a small town and a second chance romance, and the pesky mystery kept getting in the way. The body is found in the first chapter, but not identified until Chapter 12 (of 18). So yeah, this is a LOT of romance and very little mystery. I can tell this author writes from the Heartwarming line because that's basically what this was. I was looking for romantic suspense, not a cheesy Christmas movie in print, so it was a big disappointment.

Jill said...

I also have an aversion to danger banging ;-)

I *did* finish my read and it was a pretty decent one. SILKEN THREADS by Patricia Ryan. The elevator pitch is essentially 'REAR WINDOW in the middle ages.'

It is 1165 and our hero is Graeham Fox, a 'serjeant'(a professional soldier, not a gentleman) and he gets tangled up in retrieving his lord's daughter from an abusive marriage. He's supposed to fetch the daughter from her awful silk merchant husband and whisk her back to France. Instead he gets his leg broken by some anonymous thugs before he rescues her. He rents a room across the street so he can keep an eye on things. He’s worried that if he’s found out, he will put his charge at greater risk. He chooses to lie to his landlady about why he is there and why he needs her particular room.

Our heroine is *not* the married woman in jeopardy. Our heroine is Joanna Chapman and she's Graeham’s landlady and widowed shop owner. She started out as part of the noble class, but after an impulsive elopement to a silk merchant, she's come down a lot in the world. Her worthless husband (lots of awful silk merchant husbands in this) has died and she’s a little nervous about having a strange man in the house. So what does she do? She lies to Graeham and tells him her husband is still alive, just abroad buying silks.

Yeah, you can see where this is going. Double big secret conflict, neither one of them terribly plausible. However, I pushed on and ended up really enjoying it. It does have some parts that have not aged well due to when it was written (1999). I’d give the whole thing a B-/B. Did it feel like REAR WINDOW? Not really, which is fine. REAR WINDOW is a great movie, but it’s never struck me as particularly romantic. The secrets don’t last forever and the mystery was satisfying, particularly for a secondary plot. It’s also definitely not a wallpaper historical and there’s lots of interesting characters that inhabit the world. This was book 5 in a series of 6, but I didn’t feel lost at all and I might read the next one. It’s about the heroine’s charming, rapscallion brother and is supposed to be based on NOTORIOUS. Now that is a romantic movie!

azteclady said...

Well, damn, Jill, that sounds really good (and it's not very expensive as a digital book either).

Funny thing: it's listed as five of six over at amazon, but fantastic fiction has it as the first of the series.

Thank you for the rec, Jill.

Jill said...

@azteclady, my pleasure! She also wrote historical mysteries under P.B. Ryan, I think I may have backed into buying this book after reading those books and wanting more. Those were set in 19th century Boston, but had the same strengths of a fleshed out world and engaging characters.

Jen Twimom said...

OMG. I love your term "Danger Banging!" I hate it! Makes me roll my eyes every time. This does sound like a good one, even with some of the force-inspiration moments. Glad you mostly enjoyed your read!

Wendy said...

AL: Yeah, this book would get on your last nerve. The survivalist stuff is really good, but the inspirational elements would be full stop.

Eurohackie: OMG, I HATE that! The whole point of category romance is that readers are looking for a certain "type" of story. If it's a Love Inspired Suspense there darn sure better be some suspense!

Jill: I'm nearly certain I have that book buried in my digital TBR. I feel like Ryan has offered it as a freebie in the past? And I tend to only download freebies by authors I've heard of, have read before etc. This does sound very promising and I'm glad you ended up enjoying it - bodes well for me!

Jen: Yeah, the first time I heard the term Danger Banging I cackled. I've always loathed it so having a handy term to describe it is super helpful with talking with other readers about recommendations in romantic suspense.