I’m actually glad that I was provided with a free copy of this book by the publisher as part of the Goodreads First Reads program, in return for an honest review. I would hate to have bought it for myself. Why? Let’s just say that I really did not like this book.
It’s boring, poorly written, and there is no romance at all. I knew going in that it was a clean romance and I was cool with that, but I still expected some level of interaction beyond “Where are you from?” between the romantic leads. There really wasn’t. Well, that’s not completely true. There was some interaction. It was more in the form of “How do we not get killed?” and the pages dedicated to Tessa asking Jeff why he had kissed her. I was confused about why he kissed her, too. There was no chemistry between them at all. Sure, there was the whole fear that they could be killed by a drug kingpin type dude–or a couple of them, but there was no romance. I’m pretty sure that once the adrenaline wore off that they would both be wondering what they had gotten themselves into.
As a clean romance, I probably should have expected the references to modest clothing and all the talk about God and prayer. I didn’t, though. I didn’t realize that almost half of the book would be prayers. If I wanted to read a book that was half full of things that you shouldn’t do in life and half full of prayers, then I would have read the Bible. That probably would have been more exciting. If you’re skiddish about religion or you don’t want to be preached to, then you probably should avoid this book.
Other people who should avoid it include anyone who doesn’t like a gratuitous threat of rape. Yes, this is one of those books that puts an attempted rape scene in the book just to add conflict. Writers should really stop doing that. There are other ways to add conflict besides trying to rape or, as this author calls it, “abuse” the (usually) female characters. And, while we’re at it, if you are going to put a rape or rape attempt scene in a book, then you should be willing to call it what it is. I know that rape is an ugly word, but it is an important word to use when it comes to this sort of situation. People need to be able to recognize it for what it is. While rape is a form of abuse, not calling it rape diminishes that ability. This leads to people acting callously toward rape victims or towards victims being in denial of what they have actually suffered through.
There was some more ignorance thrown in the other parts of the book. The male lead (a Border Patrol agent) kept explaining the science to the female lead (a fish biologist), which was really annoying. It felt like she should be the one explaining science to him since she was the science person. There were also references to poor communication with their families. There was judgment of divorce and couples who choose that option. The male lead was able to tell just by meeting the female lead that her intelligence and gender made her high maintenance. The bad guy in the book threatens to sell the female lead to make money; an exact quote from this interaction was “There are men who would pay top dollar for a red-haired American woman.”
Speaking of ignorance related to the bad guy, the drug kingpin was forcing his “employees” to stay and work for him on his marijuana grow. This was recognized and identified as slavery. It was even mentioned that sometimes he kept the employees drugged so that they would work for him. All in the name of keeping his operation going and keeping the profit margin high. These are acts that most people would recognize as signs that this bad guy is really bad. Well, not our female lead. She didn’t realize just how horrible of a human being he was until he tried to sell her for a profit. At the end of the paragraph after that last quote, she made the following remark, “So you’re going to move from illegal drugs to human trafficking?” He was already involved in human trafficking, hun. Human trafficking is defined as, “a. sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or b. the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.” That she didn’t know this was horrifying. It disgusted me that she thought that her education or social status or anything else somehow made her more of a victim than these people who had been “recruited” into slavery because of their addictions or their poverty.
There was the “all drugs are bad” feeling that the book gave off. It also had a tendency toward the pro-nationalism that you sometimes see on the right. I don’t know if that was intentional, but that’s definitely how certain parts came across.
The book also followed some religious stereotypes. You have the strong male lead with the deep Christian faith. You have the weak female lead who has her doubts; she also has red hair, which is common amongst religious characters who have been objectified in some way. And you have the bad guys, who don’t believe in God and who have scarred bodies and faces. They have nothing to live for except their greed. Basically everything you learned in Sunday School. Not really imaginative. Not really ground-breaking. Not any good.
Do yourself a favor and skip this book.