Liane Mason has moved back in with her father, on his slowly deteriorating ranch, after her now-ex-husband was sent to prison. She has to heal from her physical wounds, as well as the emotional ones, and try to raise two kids, too! Old high-school flame Jake Whitaker is no help; her father had taken him in after he lost a leg fighting forest fires, and she’s been avoiding him. Until four escaped felons change everything for them all…
Okay, I know why Anne thought I’d enjoy this, maybe–she knows I’ve got a special place in my soul for disabled heroes and heroines, and yes, Jake is very accurately and sensitively depicted in that aspect; he is struggling to get himself back in shape to do the job he has loved for so long, and the events of the story finally bring him to the point of discovering that it may not, in fact, be possible. His internal struggle with that, though brief, is very well-done.
As a story, Passion to Protect is a good one. I had trouble putting this down, and read it cover-to-cover in a single sitting. The suspense of the escaped ex-husband out for vengeance just keeps driving this tale forward, making sure you aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen next. The “romance” aspect, depicted in the re-blossoming of Jake and Liane’s relationship, is very nicely done. We don’t see any of the forced-chemistry that is common in romance novels. They both resist, for what they think are perfectly valid reasons, and when they do finally get intimate, are both anxious about the changes to their bodies and personae in all those years. It’s very believable, solid storytelling.
Also very well-done is our villain and supporting cast. Liane’s ex-husband Mac is quite unhinged, as are his three fellow escapees, and we don’t shed one crocodile tear for any of them meeting their comeuppance. The local sheriff is also a really well-done side character; his best friend is Liane’s father, and as the story unfolds, his own struggle becomes apparent.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book to folks who like suspenseful stories with a dash of romantic interest. That said, I had some issues with it, myself.
The title hints at the first. All the men in her life, from her father, to Jake, to the crusty old sheriff, seem to be driven to “take care of” Liane. Listen, boyos, she’s faced down a man with a gun, who tried real hard to kill her. Don’t you think she might possibly be made of sturdier stuff than you think? In truth, she is, and when she discovers what’s been going on around her, the confrontation she has with Jake is fiery, albeit brief.
There is one section of the book where Liane is telling Jake about her husband’s abusiveness during their marriage. It’s pretty explicit, and nearly earns this story a “Trigger Warning” rating, but more annoying to me is Jake’s response. He tries to tell her what she should have done–this sort of explication is all-too-common in apologetics for domestic violence, and I don’t care for it.
Finally, this tale has several depictions of violent, abrupt death, including one from the eyes of a child. Being the peacenik that I am, I found these graphic sections very disturbing.
Overall, a good story, well-crafted–but not for everyone’s tastes. I think I’ll leave this line for Anne.