Happy End-of-February! To warm you up on this snowy weekend, I have a review for book #3, the final book in our February Blog Tour, courtesy of the fine people over at Graf-Martin Communications Inc. and Baker/Revell books.
The final book is the one that I was least looking forward to reading, initially… and found myself both surprised and thrilled to find that not only did I love the book, but I might even go so far as to put in on my list of memorable reads for the year. Got your curiosity piqued? Here it is…
Beguiled: A Novel – Deenne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand
In the shadows of Charleston, someone is watching her…
Rylee Monroe, a dogwalker in Charleston’s wealthiest neighborhood, never feared the streets at night. But now a thief is terrorizing the area and worse, someone seems to be targeting her.
Reporter Logan Woods is covering the break-ins with the hope of publishing them as a true-crime book. The more he digs, the more he realizes this beguiling dogwalker seems to be at the center of everything.
As danger draws ever closer, Logan must choose: Chase the girl, the story, or plunge into the shadows after the villain who threatens everything?
This romantic suspense has something over so many other romantic suspense novels out there these days: It benefits from both a man & a woman’s writing perspective, drawing on the strengths of both authors, and it shows. Gist is an established romance novelist, and Bertrand is a debut novelist with a crime-thriller background, which means that both the romance AND the thriller/suspense aspects of the book come across strong. Too often this genre offers up books that suffer in one of the two areas simply because of the limitations of the author, but this co-authorship in particular did exactly what it set out to do.
The main character, Rylee, is likable and quirky, and I was thrilled to see a protagonist with an unusual job… plus, I love animals, so I was able to connect with her passions in that area very quickly. I also found her to be very well-rounded as a character, with good elements and evident flaws that gave her a realism I haven’t seen in recent books (*cough*BellaRossi*cough*).
The love interest thankfully took a realistic amount of time to develop, and even then wasn’t a sure thing. The reactions & actions of the main character and love interest were also realistic for people who are interested in each other — rather than trying to hide behind a facade of “proper” Christianese, the characters are human, with human reactions and emotions. I greatly appreciated this, and I really wish more Christian authors remembered that just being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t struggle with temptations, tough decision and troublesome emotions… and that you won’t always make the right choice, because regardless of what you believe, we’re all human.
Back to the plot… enough questions were raised and answered in the first half of the book to not frustrate a reader, while also keeping other answers hidden until the twist at the end. The tone & pacing of the book was exacted with definite skill, alternating between lighthearted fun and intense mystery without feeling contrived, and even the inclusion of Christian material (ie. the spiritual journey of the characters) felt natural and normal.
My only concern was that the person who turned out to be the ‘bad guy’ in the end was a bit too obvious early on. I don’t want to say much more in case you read it and my comments spoil things for you, but I was a bit disappointed in that regard. Mind you, the twist turned out to be a lot more complicated than I expected, so that sort of made up for it.
What can I say? The book surprised me, in a very good way. I sincerely hope that these authors team up together in the future, and I might even be open to reading more from each author individually.
Definitely recommended. You can read an excerpt here!
Available now from your favorite bookseller from Bethany House,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.