Unconditional Recommendation: Sharp detail and expertly written characters are woven together in this suspense story of a woman with real fears and a stalker, her brother who protects her, a man who wishes she would let him close enough to love her and a God who is just and does not want us to live our lives in fear.
Awards: RITA Award by Romance Writers of America for Best Inspirational Romance (2000), Booksellers’ Best Award, OKRWA National Readers Choice Award for Inspirational (1999)
There is a part of me that will always struggle with fear—anticipation of a crisis or catastrophe, fear of declining health, fear of an uncertain future in uncertain times—and in this book I like that the protagonist is challenged to name her fear, confront it with truth, and choose not to let it run her life. I also really like the suspense!
Sara Walsh was abducted as a child and though she was rescued the kidnapper was not caught. Now in her thirties, he stalks her still…in real life and in her dreams. Under FBI protection, Sara tries to maintain as much of a normal life as she can but the security is suffocating and the fear is overwhelming. When she meets the famous ex football player, Adam Black, and begins to fall in love with him she must make a choice. Will she continue to trust God with her safety and future or will she let her fears determine her life?
I found this book after reading and loving The Negotiator, the first book of the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson. You don’t need to read this book before starting the series nor do you need to read the series before reading this book. It can stand alone and does so quite well. Sara and her brother Dave will appear in The Negotiator, with Sara fading back to be a minor character and Dave moving into the spotlight.
What I enjoy most about this book is the writing. Hands down, Dee Henderson writes expertly. Her writing is not poetic or overly descriptive, but rather sharp, to the point, factual, saying what needs to be said with as little words as possible while still conveying meaning in an addicting way. Henderson complements the intelligence of the reader by assuming that you will understand what she hints at but doesn’t always explain. I think it’s the perfect way to write suspense because the short sentences and abundance of dialogue drive you forward faster and faster as if your are walking across stepping stones, gaining speed, losing your balance, but still managing to keep your feet underneath you.
Another thing Henderson does brilliantly is characterization. From the first, it is as if you are reading about real people living real lives. Distinct and real, you never for a moment wonder if you won’t get invested in this character’s story or root for their victory. She builds her characters with such complexity and depth, and in Sara’s case, some duality. Sara is a bestselling writer, both of suspense novels written under the pseudonym H. Q. Victor and beautifully illustrated children’s books under Sara J. Walsh. Her suspense novels showcase her adult feelings towards her kidnapping and her determination for the man to be caught while her children’s books display her childhood innocence and wonder. It is an ode to the person she was before her abduction and who she became afterwards. I think that is such a creative way to characterize the protagonist.
This book acknowledges the real problems and questions we have about evil in this world, fear, and faith. This topic is explored more in Dee Henderson’s other O’Malley books but here is where we see fear brought to center stage. Sara is often overwhelmed with fear and like her stalker it is always something in the back of her mind. It is part of her reality, her dreams, and comes in flashbacks whenever she is in the dark. Sara struggles with fear and not without reason, but she also endeavors to remind herself of the God she believes in, His promises, and the nature of His character. A future with a well-known man who wants to have kids is a scary proposition for a woman who is afraid that what happened to her would happen to her own children. She has to decide whether to make decision based on fear or based on God.
Make the decision. Are you going to trust God or not? Would you deny yourself a future with Adam because you can’t predict what God will allow? (pg 295)
I love that: Will you trust God even though you cannot predict what He will allow to happen to you in life? To those you love? It is a question that gets to the heart of the matter regardless of what kind of situation we find ourselves in which we are struggling with a decision to step out by faith and see how the Lord works it out or not. This book has quite a few good tidbits like this interspersed in the romance and suspense. Another issue Sara struggles with throughout the book is survivor’s guilt. Sara is a twin and both girls were abducted the same day but only she came out alive. She questions God, “Why did You let her die?” and He answers:
The number of days for Kim’s life were different than yours. Do you want to carry the guilt forever? It wasn’t your decision. (pg 294)
This is divine perspective and it is certainly true to life. What sometimes helps me with my own fears is to remember that the Lord knows the number of my days and I am immortal until the day He takes me home. We can be comforted that God is sovereign and will end our lives when He wants but it will be in His perfect time and not determined by some random accident. This is what Sara’s struggle reminds me to remember. In whom are we ultimately going to trust with our future? Can we step out by faith even though we don’t know what He will allow? Do we know that God is sovereign but also good, loving, and all-knowing?
I thought the romance in this book was realistic and responsible, which sounds weird to me as I write this, but there you have it. The characters are very principled, respectful of each other, honest, imperfect, and seeking the Lord through it. I think the romance is well done.
I read this book practically nonstop (I mean, unlike many fictional characters I still have to use the bathroom) and the twist at the end made me gasp and attempt to read faster. The ending is gloriously happy and, speaking of glorious, the whole book could be seen as an analogy for life: we live in fear, with burdens, evil and injustices on this earth but one day God will put everything right and we will be free. A pleasure to read, some good tidbits of truth, a pull-you-along plot and a happy ending equals, in my opinion, a very good book. I always enjoy the feel of this book, it leaves you with hope and an air of celebration—which is one of my favorite moods in which to close a book. Enjoy!
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