Title: Fast Track
Author: Julie Garwood
Release Date: July 7, 2015
It’s time to buckle up and hold on because we’re talking about FAST TRACK by Julie Garwood.
Cordelia Kane is a PhD student teaching chemistry at a small Catholic high school to make ends meet when her dad suffers a major heart attack. On his deathbed, he reveals a secret that he has held all of Cordie’s life: her mother is still alive.
After the funeral, Cordie pushes through, handling what must be done and trying to heal while coming to grips with the knowledge of her mother’s existence. Going through her dad’s safe-deposit box she finds letters, some from her mother and more from her dad, and it leaves her with more questions than answers. As Cordie struggles to fill the hole in her life left by her devoted father’s passing, she tries to reconcile why the woman who bore her abandoned her.
During her time of need, Cordie’s friends descended back to their native Chicago to help her along the way. Her two childhood friends, Sophie Rose and Regan Madison are there to help pick up the pieces for her along with their husbands, Alec and Jack. But it’s Regan’s oldest brother who causes the biggest issue for Cordie since she has had a crush on Aiden since she was five and now he’s there in close proximity. Heat builds between the two as the search for Cordie’s missing mom continues and takes them across the ocean to Australia.
Cordie and Aiden set out to let her mom know they’ve found her without revealing much. But the question really ends up being, who is in for the bigger surprise? While Cordie’s mother is extremely shocked and troubled by discovering that her daughter has found her, Cordie and Aiden find themselves now playing defense in a game they didn’t know existed. A seemingly innocuous letter written by Cordie’s mother ends up being the key which opens Pandora’s box.
Back in Chicago things heat up with Cordie finding herself the victim of a ill-thought out attempted murder. Relying on her friends and their FBI Agent-husbands to keep her safe, she works at unraveling the mystery that she has fallen into.
Now onto my personal views:
Overall, the book moved fast and the dialogue was done very well. There were a few passages that I needed to go back and reread to make sure I had them straight (for example I kept messing up who had married whom. Regan had married Jack while Sophie married Alec.) But I would say that was indicative of Garwood’s style of showing the reader what was happening as opposed to just telling them.
For the most part, I would say the characters were believable. I could believe that they existed while I read this book. I think we each know people who would come close to fitting the overall persona of each of the main characters. There was enough description given so the reader could draw their own picture of each of the characters, but not so much that you wanted to skip ahead to get through pages of endless description.
I like the way Cordie is portrayed. She’s not the stereotypical heroine. In the prologue, (remember, she’s only 5 at this point) she instructs Aiden how to deal with a flooded car engine. That’s not something most 5 year olds would know, let alone a 5-year old girl, so we see she walks a different path than most. At the time of the story, she’s finishing up her PhD in BioChemistry. This is something Garwood does very well in her book. She let’s us see the character and get hints of their personality, but it is shown subtly. It’s one of the rare times that I find that I closely identify with the heroine of the book. I have a degree in physics and I am enamored about aviation, to the point that I’m actively building a plane of my own, so I personally know the path she followed.
If I could change anything in the book, it would be the way the subplot fits in. The sub plot seems a bit extraneous for the book. Several chapters are spent with Aiden and his brothers, Spencer and Walker, as they are in the process of procuring a parcel of land for their hotel chain. The main opponent is an incumbent congressman, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the overall flow of the story. One of the tings about romantic suspense is that you really don’t need that extra sub plot. It’s already built in. You have the mystery or suspense story and you have the romance. It lets the story fluctuate back and forth as the emotional needs dictate. Need to speed things up? Write a critical piece in the suspense arena that puts everyone in peril. Need a break? Add in a romantic scene or two. The writing in the sections that deal with this twist is good, but it didn’t do much to advance the story. It almost seems to me it was in there to keep the book at a specific length.
The heat level in the book was mid to high. Not an R-rated book, but perhaps a bit more than PG-13. There was some cursing in the book, but it didn’t appear on every page. It was used sporadically and seemed to fit into the story well.
Overall, I would recommend FAST TRACK to readers who enjoy Nora Roberts or Suzanne Farrell’s romantic suspense works. Fast track is a fun read that is sure to keep you turning pages, and is available at most retailers in electronic, hardcover, paperback and audio formats.
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Title: The Obsession
Author: Nora Roberts
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Some things in life are so important you can’t let them go. They become your obsession. For a book lover like me, the latest romantic suspense, The Obsession, by bestselling author Nora Roberts is aptly named.
Naomi (Bowes) Carson lived through a childhood that no one should. At the ripe old age of almost 12, she saves the life of a girl she doesn’t’ know who is being held prisoner and being raped by her abductor. To add to Naomi’s complexity, the man responsible is her father.
After her father’s arrest and conviction, life for Naomi is a constant battle of trying to hide and forget the past. She just wants to be normal. Naomi, her brother Mason and her mother move in with her Uncle Seth and his husband, Harry. Eventually they leave D.C. and end up in New York City where Seth and Harry pursue their dreams of owning a restaurant. After graduation from high school and college, Naomi begins to make her life her way. Every time the past catches up with her, Naomi’s instinct is to run. As a freelance photographer, Naomi is more of a gypsy than an urbanite. That is until she falls in love with the big house and its potential. For the first time in years, she stops running and tries to put down those tentative roots.
While dealing with the renovation of the big house, Naomi finds herself opening slightly to new friends. Kevin Banner, the general contractor and his wife, Jenny have made inroads. But it’s because of a slight accident that she meets Tag (the dog) and Xander Keaton. She quickly decides both are going to be trouble.
While Xander is fixing cars and playing guitar, he’s trying to work his way into Naomi’s heart. He’s an avid reader and an astute observer, and puts together the Naomi of his acquaintance with the Naomi Bowes who helped stop her serial killer father. He holds his discovery to himself, even when women around their little town begin disappearing.
For Naomi, the disappearances of two women is bad enough. When their bodies are found mirroring the abuse that her father put on his victims, she becomes distraught. Mason arrives shortly after the second abduction. Unlike Naomi who tried to put distance between the child she was and the adult she became, Mason has studied serial killers, including his father, with the hopes of understanding them so he can help the FBI stop them.
As the disappearances continue and the body count rises, Naomi wonders why her life is crossing with a second serial killer. In the end, she and Tag are responsible for the capture of the killer.
Now onto my personal views:
I will admit to being a huge Nora fan, and as such, I’ve read almost everything she’s done, so I may be a bit biased here. But honestly, I liked The Obsession. A lot.
Typical of a Nora Roberts romantic suspense, the characters are engaging and the dialogue is witty and quick. Roberts takes us on a roller-coaster ride of emotion through the entire tale. We, the reader, feel the euphoria as Naomi looks out her window to the sea, and we feel the desolation that the dreams and discovery bring.
I can fully empathize with the character of Naomi, who just wanted to put the past behind her and move on with her life. I know when certain events from my past that I’d rather forget peek out, what that does to me. For many of us, we want to leave those skeletons in the closet and get on with the rest of our normally scheduled life. And when things happen that force us to confront those skeletons, we’re never really sure how things are going to work out until we’re done.
That being said, I liked Xander quite a bit. He’s got priorities and rituals that he lives by, but he’s not so stuck in his ways that he can’t take a detour every once and a while. Xander is a loyal friend, and Roberts shows this by several times having either Xander or Kevin comment about “…friends womb to tomb…” Xander is there to help his friends with whatever they need and he does so with a smile on his face.
Overall, the pacing of the book was great. Like many of her other books, I read this in one sitting. Roberts has mastered the art of bouncing between the mystery and the romance of the story. She’s got a terrific formula that she seems to follow regularly. Like most of her recent books, The Obsession is broken into a few section, each focusing on a different part of drama and it reminds me of a play broken into the various acts. Each act has its own rhythm, but the transition from the crimes to the love scenes are done well.
One thing I was glad about with this book, I didn’t figure out who the killer was within the first five minutes. By the end of Act 1, I was pretty sure a specific person was involved somehow. But since the bodies don’t’ start appearing for a while after that, I wasn’t sure what role the character was going to play. I also will say, that I didn’t figure out exactly what the plot or twist was going to be until well into the book. So, in my opinion, this year’s stand alone romantic suspense novel was several steps up from last year’s entry, The Liar.
The heat level in The Obsession was typical of Roberts’ recent releases. I would put it Med-high. There was enough in there that I wouldn’t let my 12 year old niece read it, but not so much that I skipped pages to avoid feeling embarrassed. If you’ve read any of Roberts’ other work that she’s put out in the past 5 to 10 years, the heat level is fairly close to those.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s a great read and would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf.