by Juno Rushdan
Series: Fugitive Heroes: Topaz Unit #1
Also in this series: Alaskan Christmas Escape, Disavowed in Wyoming, An Operative's Last Stand
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Source: the author
I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
He'll sacrifice his safety…for a woman who could completely upend his Christmas.
After Gage Graham saves her from drowning, Hope Fischer revives, determined to learn the truth about her sister's death. All she has to do is infiltrate a mysterious closed Virginia town and discover why the attractive—but secretive—Gage feels compelled to help her. Can she trust him? Will he risk being discovered by his former employer, the CIA, for a woman he just met? Neither will matter if a killer succeeds.
While I’ve been a huge fan of the author’s Final Hour series for years, I’ve never read one of her categories. So why not hop in with the start of a new series? This book is pretty much everything I wanted from a category suspense.
“I look forward to hearing the story. If I had to guess, it’s a dramatic tale fraught with danger, probably a little gunfire, but it has a happy ending.”
Hope refuses to believe her sister Faith committed suicide, but the powers-that-be that run the gated and off-the-grid town of Benediction, a combination of the military and the drug company that Faith worked for, refuse to release any more information to her. When she’s run off the road on one of attempts to visit the town, she’s lucky to be rescued by Gage, who’s able to talk the soldiers into letting her be seen by the clinic in town. Gage knows the woman is hiding something, but it’s not like he isn’t as well. While everyone believes he returned to Benediction to help out his sister-in-law and nephew, he has his own reasons for wanting to be off-the-grid – it’s a good place to hide out and avoid attracting any unwanted government attention. But once Gage finds out what Hope is trying to accomplish in town, will he sacrifice his safety to help her find closure?
“I see real courage when I look at you. And determination. Most people don’t have either. Their resolve is born out of fear. Unlike yours.”
Like Gage says, Hope is a determined woman, and she’s got the smarts to back it up. A photojournalist by trade, she’s used to going into tricky situations and getting herself back out again. Nothing quite like this, however, and she’s never had a helper like Gage, though she’s not sure she can trust him. Sure, he saved her life, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also involved with her sister’s murder. And it’s obvious his kindness is hiding something. Gage has always known his time in Benediction would be limited, that eventually the people he’s hiding from would find him, but he’d hoped to have at least another year to plan his next moves. While it’s been nice spending time with his family, he also knows he can’t let himself get too close to anyone for fear they’ll be targeted as well. But Hope seems to slip past all his defenses, and when she opens up about her reasons for being in Benediction, he can’t help but feel a certain kinship to her, even if helping her out will almost certainly put a spotlight on him.
“Benediction was so quiet and serene with an almost idyllic quality at night. But if you peeled back the holiday-themed veneer, beneath the surface this place was rotten, festering with corruption like a disease.”
While “Christmas” is right in the title, I wouldn’t really call this a holiday book, though there’s lots of snow and near-hypothermic conditions! While Benediction seems idyllic – people rarely lock their doors, everyone knows everyone – there’s a lot of negatives to living in a place that’s so remote and under government control. It’s obvious pretty quickly that Hope was right to suspect that Faith was murdered, and her search to put together the pieces was engrossing. The pacing is intense from the start, and the only pauses in the action are to develop the relationship and trust between Hope and Gage.
Overall, this is a very promising start to a new series, and I can’t wait to see what happens with the ret of Gage’s team!