Disclaimer: This book, which is an inspirational romantic suspense, is not a genre I usually read. Most of the inspirational fiction I've read is not as well written as the traditional mysteries I prefer. I'm also not a fan of romance because it seems to me that there's only one plot in a romance. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl. Or reverse the boy and girl in those sentences. So why did I read this book? See the end of this post.
The book opens with a prologue, a confrontation between an unnamed woman and a man named Gregory Chessman. I've heard that prologues have fallen out of style, that agents and editors hate them and that most readers skip them, preferring to get to Chapter 1 and the meat of the story. I'm not one who skips them, but I need to feel that they're essential to the story and I need them to be memorable enough that when they finally hook up with the main plot line, I have an "aha" moment. I didn't remember this one. In fact, I just had to scan it again to bring back what it was about. In my opinion, it could have been omitted and not affected the story at all.
Chapter One opens with another unnamed woman (or is it the same one and this is a scene prior to the the prologue?) who is on the phone arguing with her financial adviser about the offer on her deceased aunt's beach cottage. The adviser wants her to sell. She's reluctant because it was the one happy place in her childhood. He also tells her she's been found again. With this, we learn that she is on the run from a terrorist group, Nihilists in Anarchy, or NINA for short. We also learns that she prays about her decisions and trusts in God.
With the setup in place, the protagonist is subsequently carjacked, hit on the head, overcome by the smell of some chemicals and wakes up with amnesia. She doesn't remember who she is or where she is. All she is sure of is her faith. In her pocket is a card that says Crossroads on one side and Susan on the back. When she learns that she's in Florida close to the town of Seagrove Village, she knows that she doesn't want to be there. She doesn't remember why, but she convinces the man who found her not to take her to a hospital, but instead to the Crossroads Crisis Center, where there is less likelihood of her situation--and her presence--being reported.
When she arrives at the Crossroads Crisis Center, she learns that Susan is not her name, but the name of the founder of the center, to whom she bears a strong resemblance, and the deceased wife of Ben, who lost his faith when his wife and son were killed.
The author leads us on a rollercoaster ride of danger and plots and insinuations throughout the book, along with the developing romance between our variously named heroine and Ben. Despite my bias against the genre, I found myself swept up in the story and wanting to find out who were the bad guys and who were the good guys and why they were threatening the heroine and those who were trying to help her. I also found the faith theme well done, if predictable.
On the other hand, there were some coincidences, particularly toward the end of the book, that stretched credulity. I also found the secondary characters thinly drawn, with very little to distinguish them from one another.
One question I always ask myself when I finish a book by a new-to-me author is would I read another book by this author? The answer in this case is definitely yes. Not right away (I still haven't read Dennis Lehane's The Given Day and Moonlight Mile was released this past week), but perhaps when the sequel to this book is published in February.
Why I read this book: My dream is to be a published author. When my current WIP turned out to be a lot more inspirational that I ever imagined it would be, I started having concerns about its saleability. It's not the warm, cuddly sort of book that I associated with Christian fiction. On the other hand, there's an awful lot of Christianity in it for a mainstream mystery. When I mentioned my concerns to another member of my RWA chapter, she told me that my book wasn't necessarily too edgy for the Christian market. She also told me about agent Steve Laube, who is based in nearby Phoenix. Curious as to whether I might actually fit into a niche and whether Steve Laube might be an agent I should contact when I'm ready to start submitting my book, I made a list of his clients. This list included Vicki Hinze, who seems to have quite a favorable reputation as an author and writing teacher. And that's why I chose to read this book.