by Camy Tang
220 pages. 288 pages (Larger Print version).
Genre: Suspense, Romance, Inspirational
Series: Sonoma #6, Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
As a skip tracer in training, Joslyn Dimalanta knows she has the skills to track down her missing friend. As long as her friend’s startlingly handsome brother, Clay Ashton, doesn’t distract her. But then his sister’s house detonates—almost killing Clay and Joslyn. Now they realize the harsh reality: they must either find the person after Clay’s sister or face deadly consequences. And the closer they get to exposing the source of the crimes, the more explosive surprises they discover. With every obstacle they overcome, Joslyn finds herself relying on Clay more and more. Still, the peril they face scares her less than the idea of trusting Clay with her wounded heart.
First Sentence: The man had danger written all over him.
I initially had no interest in reading this book. My stepmother gave me this book as a hand-me-down after cleaning out her own library. I smiled as I accepted it, but as I looked on the back and noticed it was a Harlequin novel, I cringed.
1. Romance novels have never been my cup of tea. Well, to be fair, I had never actually read a romance novel until this one. I just assumed I would hate them from random little excerpts I’d hear read on television.
2. To make it even more of a turnoff, it was an “inspirational” romance. My stepmother is a hardcore Christian, so I wasn’t surprised. Not being a religious person myself, I just couldn’t see myself enjoying it.
3. It was book #6 of a series. I don’t typically enjoy starting in the middle of a series.
I kept the book on my shelf for a couple of years, not sure what to do with it. Donate it? Sell it at a yard sale? Then the idea hit me one day while I was rearranging my bookshelf and stumbled upon it: Why not just read the first chapter and then go from there?
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that I enjoyed this story, but I struggled with how many stars to give it. Should it be 2 or 3? Was it just okay? Or did I like it enough to read more of the series? Well, let us break it all down:
My problems with the book:
The first sentence was too cheesy for my taste. “The man had danger written all over him.” The rest of the first page then goes on to start describing this perfect hunk of a man in poetic detail. It just seemed to confirm I was reading the typical stereotype of a romance novel and that irked me.
Fiona sends a postcard to Joslyn, an old college friend she has lost touch with, saying she needs help. Fiona also calls her half-brother, Clay (whom she has also lost touch with) with a vague and short message that she was in trouble. It takes both Joslyn and Clay three weeks to track down where Fiona now lives so they can check on her. Joslyn finds her through her skip tracing skills and Clay finds her through a PI. In some crazy twist of convenient irony (perhaps it was God’s plan?), Joslyn and Clay show up at Fiona’s house at exactly the same time. And as luck would have it, they are both strongly attracted to each other within hours of meeting. It’s just too… perfect.
I was surprised to see that it wasn’t a typical romance novel in that it didn’t have any hot and steamy scenes of passion, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is, after all, an inspirational novel as well, which makes it clean and wholesome.
The inspirational parts of the book are brought up seemingly out of nowhere. At one point, both Joslyn and Clay are being shot by the two thugs that chase them throughout the story and Joslyn makes a comment about praying. She doesn’t like the expression on Clays face after she says it (I personally can’t see a guy wearing a pleasant expression when he’s being chased and shot at) and then seemingly forgets about the fact that they are both in danger so she can spend a paragraph thinking about whether or not Clay was offended by her being a Christian.
Of all the times the Christian faith is brought up in the book, only one of them fits within the context of the story. The rest of the references just seem painfully out of place.
What I liked:
As I said, I only found that one of the several references to religion seemed to fit in this story, which is crucial as it is, in the end, the central theme of the book. At the very beginning of the book, there is a biblical verse which reads: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8.
This verse is used by one of the characters later in the story and it fits very nicely. The overall theme of the book is that no matter how bad your past may be, there is always a chance for redemption as long as you have love.
You have Joslyn, who is trying to move on with her life after escaping an abusive boyfriend and you have Clay, who is stuck in self-hatred and doubt after spending time in prison for being a mafia thug. It seems similar to the parable of The Prodigal Son. Clay feels he doesn’t belong anywhere, nor does he deserve the love of others because of his past, but he finds with Joslyn and her crew that he can be loved and accepted. His past does not define him.
Surprisingly, I do not feel that the romance of this Harlequin novel was over dramatized. The story focused more on the suspense of being chased and pursued. Lots of car chases, explosions, shootouts, and being on the run. There was an element of mystery in trying to find out what happened to Fiona and who it is that is after Joslyn and Clay. For all my complaints and biases, it is because of this constant suspense, that I enjoyed Gone Missing.
In all, even if this isn’t my typical choice of book genre, I would say that if I were to ever come across the other novels in this series (The Sonoma series), I would probably read them. There were many references to the previous book that peaked my interest. It sounds as though there will be just as much suspense in book #5 as there was in book #6.
The writing itself is simple and straightforward, making for a quick read. It’s a nice book to read when trying to wind down at the end of the day.
The memories, more bitter than medicine, burned his tongue and throat, and he swallowed to get them out of his system.
“Your past has shaped who you are, but it’s not what defines you.”